Top 5 Italian Restaurant Chains in the United States
By: Liz Flynn
When the Italians began immigrating to America, they took many aspects of their culture with them. One area in which they were particularly influential is the cuisine of America. Italian cuisine and dishes inspired by the flavors of the Mediterranean have become amongst the most popular dishes in the United States with many restaurants devoted to selling these foods. In fact, some restaurants have become so popular that the owners have established chains to sell their food in a variety of locations across the country. Here are some of the most popular Italian restaurant chains in the United States.
1. Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Johnny Carrabba and his uncle Damian Mandola opened a restaurant together in Houston in 1986. Since then, this chain has expanded to include 240 locations in 32 states. This chain restaurant now belongs to a parent company called ‘Bloomin’ Brands’ which also owns Bonefish Grill, Fleming’s Steakhouse, and Outback Steakhouse.
Bertucci’s was first opened in 1981 in Somerville, Massachusetts. There are now 89 restaurants and the centerpiece of each of these is the brick oven that is central to the production of most items on the menu. Diners have the option to build their own pizza from a creative selection of toppings and bases. The comfortable atmosphere is a huge draw and one of the main reasons this chain restaurant has become so popular.
3. The Old Spaghetti Factory
The Old Spaghetti Factory is one of the oldest chains in America as it was first established in 1969 in Portland, Oregon. There are over 45 restaurants that are distinctive in their style as they are housed in converted warehouses and highly decorated in antique-style fixtures and fittings. Despite its name, this chain offers much more than spaghetti on its menu.
4. Romano’s Macaroni Grill
Romano’s Macaroni Grill was founded in 1989 by Philip Romano. The first venue was located in San Antonio but there are now 200 locations across the United States. The extensive menu contains a wide selection of Italian favorites as well as a ‘Lite’ option and a ‘create your own pasta’ option. Seasonal specials are rotated throughout the year.
5. Maggiano’s Little Italy
The first Maggiano’s opened in the River North neighborhood of Chicago in 1991. There are now restaurants in 22 states and each serves classic Italian-American favorites. In addition to the regular menu, there is a ‘Family Style’ menu for parties that want to share large platters. Maggiano’s will also deliver to your home.
Cuisine of Piedmont
By: Liz Flynn
The cuisine of Piedmont is distinguishable by the local products that are used in their creation. As a mountainous region, fishing and hunting are an important factor in the cuisine of the region. There are also many amazing products grown and produced in this region that influence the dishes. Here is an overview of the produce and cuisine of Piedmont.
Beef is the most common meat used for the cooking in Piedmont as cattle are the most populous fam animal in this region. In the Fall, grapes, mushrooms, and truffles are harvested. The area is particularly well-known for its white truffles. Rice also grows in abundance so this is an important staple in Piedmont cuisine. Castelmagno is the most famous cheese from this region. It is made from the milk from Piedmont cattle.
This is a fondue made from anchovies and olive oil. It is typically served in the middle of the table and surrounded by dishes of food for dipping, such as chopped vegetables. This dish is such an important part of the cuisine in the region, there is even a three-day event celebrating it in November.
Carne cruda is a raw meat dish that is generally served in one of two ways. Either it is thinly sliced like beef carpaccio or it is ground. For the latter option, the ground meat is combined with olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice. Both options are typically served as antipasto.
Like all regions of Italy, Piedmont has its own varieties of pasta. One of the most common is tajarin, a rich yellow colored pasta in ribbons, similar to tagliatelle. It is usually served in either a sage and butter sauce or coated in a meat ragu. Another popular form of pasta is agnolotti del plin. Similar to small ravioli, it is traditionally stuffed with veal but people now often use pork.
Brasato al Borolo
Veal is a popular dish in this region due to the wide availability of beef in Piedmont. The veal is braised overnight in Borolo wine and then braised with vegetables and herbs. There are many variations of this dish using different wines and seasonal vegetables.
This is one of the most common dishes eaten in Piedmont eaten in the winter months. It is a stew containing sweetbreads, veal spinal offal, bull testicles, veal brains, cockscombs and chicken’s feet. This is a traditional peasant food and the sauce is usually made from wine.
Best Vegetarian Italian Dishes
By: Liz Flynn
Many of the most delicious traditional Italian dishes revolve around meat or fish. The coastal regions focus on using freshly caught fish and seafood in their dishes while the inland areas predominantly use meat. The Italians are also famous for using every last scrap of meat in their food, including the offal which is often discarded in many cultures.
However, Italian food is not just about meat and fish as the Italians also like to make use of fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables. This makes Italian cuisine a great choice for vegetarians. When it comes to choosing a dish, there is so much more to offer than penne pasta with a plain tomato sauce. Here are some of the best vegetable-based Italian dishes.
A mushroom risotto is strangely both light and filling at the same time. This makes it ideal to enjoy a small, light lunch in the summer or as a hearty, warming bowl in the winter. The variety of mushrooms used in the risotto will influence the depth of the mushroom flavor within the risotto. Some people serve this topped with Parmesan shavings.
This is a favorite of Italian families that is regularly served as a family tea. It is basically layers of eggplant and Parmesan cheese that are baked in the oven until the two melt together.
3. Margherita Pizza
The simplicity of a Margherita is a favorite with everyone, regardless of whether they are a vegetarian or not. A pizza dough topped with Mozzarella cheese and tomatoes is a delicious combination.
Nothing quite encapsulates the fresh flavors of Italy like a Caprese salad. The three main ingredients are tomatoes, basil and Mozzarella cheese. Some people add a drizzle of freshly made pesto or olive oil.
Panzanella is a Tuscan salad dish with no set recipe, so you Cn include your own choice of salad ingredients. The two ingredients that are always used are bread and tomatoes. Other optional ingredients include cucumber, salad leaves, olives, herbs and olive oil.
Four Cheese Pasta
This is comforting in the same way that mac and cheese is but there is something more decadent about pasta baked with four kinds of cheese. You should use four cheeses with different flavors and consistencies and it is not necessary to stick to just Italian cheese. A great combination is emmantel, cheddar, brie and parmesan.
Italian Vegetable Soup
Each Italian family makes soup in a different way and the recipe may change according to what is available locally at that time of the year. A thinner soup with small diced vegetables is perfect for the summer. For a heartier meal in the winter, opt for chunkier root vegetables and add beans.
Gnocchi with Herb Butter
Potato gnocchi are simple yet filling. This is an easy meal to make, even for a kitchen novice. It can be served with any sauce, but a herb butter is one of the simplest to make and you can add any herbs of your choice.
By: Liz Flynn
Italy is well-known for its delicious production of food. One of its best-known products is cheese. There is a huge variety of this delicious food produced in this country and each region has its own specialties. Here are some of the top Italian cheeses to try.
This is one of the most popular and commonly used of the Italian cheeses and it is often offered to diners in Italian restaurants as a garnish for their meals. It is made using cow’s milk and is aged for two years. It has a strong, nutty, salty and piquant flavor. It tastes fantastic on its own and is often used to add flavor to pasta dishes.
Made from the milk of water buffalo, this cheese originates from the areas south and west of Naples. It is not aged at all and is best eaten the day it is made or as soon as possible after. It is a spun cheese that is usually made by hand and is popularly served in salads or on pizzas. Mozzarella has a soft texture and a sweet and creamy flavor.
Gorgonzola originates from the Lombardy region and is made from cow’s milk. There are two different varieties of this cheese. The first is a soft and mellow cheese with a slightly sweet flavor. The second has a more intense flavor because it is aged for over a year. The cattle that produce this milk stop to graze in Gorgonzola and the blue penicillin grows naturally when the cheese is stored in damp caves.
This is a sheep’s milk that is made in the Tuscany region of Italy. This is quite an oily cheese due to the high percentage of butterfat in sheep’s milk. The flavor depends on how long the cheese is aged for and this varies. In general, the longer it is aged for the greater the depth of flavor.
This cheese is unlike some of the other Italian cheeses as it is not specific to one region. In fact, it is made in Parma, Modena, Reggio Emilia, Mantova and Bologna. Made from cow’s milk and aged for a minimum of three months, many people compare the flavor and consistency of this cheese to gruyere. It is made only from the milk of the Valdostana cows from Valle d’Aosta in the Italian Alps.
Taleggio is made in the Lombardy region from cow’s milk and is aged for approximately six weeks. It has a really strong odor and is an oozing soft cheese. The flavor is described as nutty, beefy, salty and tart. It is fantastic smeared on fresh bread or polenta.
5 Best Chocolate Makers in Italy
By: Liz Flynn
One of the best food products manufactured in Italy is chocolate, a favorite of people with a sweet tooth across the world. Italy is renowned for the quality of the chocolate they produce. Here are five of the best chocolate makers in Italy.
1. Cioccolata Venchi
Venchi began producing chocolate in Turin in 1878. The company has some of the top Master Chocolatiers in the country who make their chocolates using cacao beans from Africa and South America. They also source the finest pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, and olive oil. Their products are mainly sold through their own chain of shops and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors.
In 1942, Pietro Ferrero founded this company in Piedmont. The first chocolate they produced and sold was called Pasta Glandula. The most famous of the products made by Ferrero now is Ferrero Rocher. Ferrero also owns many other food companies, including Duplo, Kinder Sorpresa and Nutella.
Pietro Caffarel founded this company in 1826 in Turin. They are famous for using traditional chocolate making methods using high-quality products and local materials. Turin Carnival, Gian d’la Duja, was the inspiration for this company’s name. Gianduiotto uses different packaging for different celebrations and events throughout the year as a marketing strategy.
Cioccolato di Modica is made in Sicily. The Spaniards introduced the art of chocolate making to the Sicilians many centuries ago, starting with collecting cacao beans, through the process of making the chocolate and then adding a range of flavors. These included cinnamon, coffee, citrus flavors, red peppers and vanilla. Modica chocolate is famous for its gritty and crumbly texture that is caused by the sugar not completely melting during the chocolate making process.
Located in Perugia, this confectionary company produces both chocolates and sweets. It was originally founded in 1907 but was bought by Nestle in 1988. Baci Perugina is the most famous product of this company. It has a solid chocolate shell with a hazelnut filling. Perugina’s biggest marketing campaign was to include romantic quotes in the packaging of their products that were written in several languages.
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