A Popular Italian Appetizer Isn't Really Served In Italy

You might be surprised to learn that some classic American international restaurant foods are just that — American! The original origin of egg foo young may surprise you; according to the James Beard Foundation, the dish was Americanized to the point of being largely invented by Chinese cooks in logging camps and railroad gangs in the late 19th and early 20th century. The dish may have its roots in Cantonese fare, but it has no direct ancestor there.

Conversely, while you may remember learning in school that pizza is an American invention, that's not quite true as it turns out. According to History, the dish really does originate from Naples, it just wasn't very popular in Italy outside of the region. Meanwhile, Italian immigrants brought pizza to the U.S. and began selling it around the turn of the 20th century. By the 1920s, pizzerias were up and running as a part of city life and by the 1940s, pizza moved to the suburbs along with Italian immigrants and became a part of the American common gastronomic lexicon. It became popular in Italy because of its connotations of Americanness, not because of its storied Neopolitan roots. You may be surprised by another food that isn't as Italian as you thought.

Not-so-Italian food

Another Italian-American classic may lack the traditional antecedents of pizza: garlic bread. The familiar dish is often served before meals in Italian restaurants. The classic American-style garlic bread recipe calls for chopped garlic mixed with heated oil or melted butter into a kind of sauce spread over two halves of an open baguette or long, crusty Italian bread. The whole dish is then heated in the oven for a few minutes to give it that golden brown crisp we all love so much, sometimes with the addition of a top layer of cheese or chopped fresh herbs.

So what do Italians eat instead? A rustic, homestyle version that may be the antecedent of American garlic bread is called fettunta, translating to "oily slice" (per The Spruce Eats). In this homestyle dish, a rough slice of toasted country bread is rubbed with a clove of garlic and drizzled with quality olive oil and salt (per The Italian Dish). But you won't likely find this dish in restaurants, where you're more likely to find it taken to the next level as the more familiar bruschetta. This popular Italian appetizer of garlic-rubbed toast topped with a thick sauce of fresh chopped tomatoes, basil, and olive oil, as well as sometimes capers and oregano, originates in Rome, according to Taste Atlas.