5 Italian-American dishes unknown by Italians

If you are American, or Canadian, you might think of coming to Italy and find some of the dishes advertised as Italians that you eat at home, but which in fact do not even exist in Italy. Spumone for instance is not renowned in its original place, Naples. To have an updated taste of Neapolitan desserts, try our street food tour in Naples. And now…Let’s see what Italian dishes you may NOT find in Italy!

Chicken Parmigiana

Chicken is one of America’s favorite foods: in sandwiches, fried, in salads, you can find it in many variations. In Italy, it is usually eaten alone, as a main course, yet in the U.S. they are convinced that it is used to make pasta sauce, or as a topping for pizza, but in fact, there is no such tradition in our country. One of the most peculiar recipes you can try in New York is chicken parmigiana, which is prepared with chicken instead of eggplant, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese, but not even a shadow of parmesan cheese. The original Italian parmigiana is made only with fried eggplant layered with caciocavallo cheese, tomato sauce and fresh basil. 

Fettuccine Alfredo

Fettuccine Alfredo for Americans is the symbol of Roman cuisine and one of the staple dishes of Italian cuisine. Too bad that Alfredo sauce in Italy is known only among the most passionate foodie community. This dish is said to have originated in Alfredo di Lelio’s restaurant in Rome in the early 1900s and in essence, it is fettuccine mantecate with butter and parmesan cheese and in some variations may include the addition of shrimp. How this dish became famous in America is quickly said: two Hollywood movie stars, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, who tasted this specialty in Alfredo’s restaurant during their honeymoon in Rome and made it famous in the US, made it famous. The real “Fettuccine alla Alfredo” is still around. Try the original one in Rome at Ristorante “Il Vero Alfredo“.


Spumone has Neapolitan origins and is widespread throughout Puglia and also in Sicily. It is a semi-cylindrical or cylindrical shaped dessert composed of different types of layered jelly, including Chocolate, Stracciatella and Hazelnut. What is known in the United States and Canada, however, has nothing to do with traditional spumone allegedly originated in Naples in the XIX century. The spumone has been modified to become a symbol of Italians: Spumone in America and Canada is prepared with the three flavors whose colors are like the Italian flag (cherry, cream and pistachio), sometimes chocolate, candied fruit and dried fruit are added. Spumone has become so famous overseas that two themed days have been dedicated to it: August 21 is celebrated in the United States and November 13 is National Spumoni Day in Canada. 

Pizza Stromboli

A pizza from the Neapolitan tradition? Not really and not even a calzone. In fact, the “stromboli roll” is a stuffed roll of bread dough. The pizza Stromboli is an Italian-American dish invented in 1950 by Nazzareno Romano, the owner of “Romano’s Pizzeria” in Essington (Philadelphia), one of the first Italian restaurants in the area. His recipe (ham, cotechino, cheese, and pepperoni wrapped in pizza dough) was an immediate success. In choosing the name, Nazzareno Romano once again wanted to seal the Italian-American nature of the dish: from “pizza imbottita” to “stromboli roll,” inspired by the then-recent scandal of the Rossellini Bergman couple on the set “Stromboli Terra di Dio.”


Mac’n’Cheese are those famous macaroni noodles topped with stringy cheese used in America as a side dish. Often served in combination with barbecue dishes, they represent an American classic of clear Italian derivation but experience a paradox: Italians do not recognize it at all as their gastronomic heritage. As folklore legends report, it was actually English immigrants who supposedly spread this dish to the United States. Then cleared through customs and made even more popular thanks to the anecdote about President Jefferson.

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We are a group of Italian tour guides passionate about our culinary traditions. We happily share our knowledge and our tips with travelers in order to promote the authentic Italian cuisine.