As we shadow Primo and Secondo, two brothers that emigrated from Italy to open an Italian restaurant in America, we learn a lot about the differences between Italian and Italian-American cuisine through the many obstacles they face. Primo is a gifted chef, a culinary genius determined not to waste his talent making routine dishes that American customers expect. Secondo is the smooth front man, trying to do anything to keep the restaurant financially afloat.
Italian cuisine is known for its diversity throughout Italy’s different regions and its abundance of difference in taste. However the one thing they all have it common is its simplicity. The first known Italian food writer was a Greek Sicilian named Archestratus and he said, “that flavors should not be masked by spices, herbs or other seasonings.” Italians cuisines extreme simplicity explains why most dishes have only 4 to 8 different ingredients. In “Big Nights,” we can see Americans are not used to this simplicity, but rather foods indulged with ingredients, a common misinterpretation Americans have with Italian cuisine. It is highly distasteful to ask for ingredients that are not included in the dish already, such as extra salt, balsamic vinegar, or meat.
Another common trait with Italian cuisine is their keen eye for quality and freshness in ingredients. We see this when Primo goes to a market to buy some herbs for the big dinner, but refuses to buy the spices because they seem old. Quality is just as important to Italian cuisine as the location these ingredients come from. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar are two examples of ingredients where location is important. If you look closely on their labels you will see how the very good oils and vinegars are usually 100% from a certain region like Lucca, Siena, or Puglia. The lesser quality olive oils and balsamic vinegars will usually be a mix of different regions, but on the bottle will say, “Bottled in Italy.”
A major difference between American...
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