What 'Authentic' Actually Means At Italian Restaurants

We can all pretty much agree that Italian food is fantastic. Whether you get pesto pasta or something more adventurous like decadent black truffle pasta, you really can't go wrong. A recent study even surveyed more than 25,000 people across 24 countries and found that it's the most popular cuisines in the world, according to the Independent. Of course Italians themselves also ranked it their favorite dish. But what actually is an "authentic" Italian meal?

Apparently many restaurants use this term, but it's not necessarily true. Eateries use this as a publicity tool because they've found that customers want real Italian cuisines versus Americanized versions, according to Commodified Identities: The Myth of Italian Food in the United States. For example, restaurants like Fazoli's claim to be authentic, but use fake Italian words to serve foods that don't actually originate from Italy. An actual authentic dining experience means entrees should actually be Italian.

Other ways to know if an Italian eatery is actually authentic

To know if you're getting the most legitimate experience and not just a marketing ploy, there's some other important things to look out for. Chef, Ali LaRaia, who cooks at New York's The Sosta, travels to Italy as often as she can to research how to make the most flavorful dishes possible, per Insider. She explained an easy way to know if a place is truly authentic, is if they have incredibly fresh and simple ingredients.

"In Italy, Italian food is heavily seasonal," LaRaia said. "Any restaurant serving regional cuisine will be serving the protein that you see on the side of the road." She also explained authentic italian meals aren't smothered in sauce or overloaded with cheese. "Italian food is about portion control, whether it's the size or portion of the meal or garnish on a plate — everything has purpose and nothing is overly indulgent."

If you're still in doubt about your favorite Italian spot, the International Association of Italian Restaurants states a restaurant must have the following to be considered authentic: at least one of the waiters must speak Italian, at least three-quarters of its wine must be from Italy and the chef must have been trained in properly making Italian cuisine (via Commodified Identities). 

Now you'll know if you're dining like a real Italian the next time you enjoy your favorite creamy spaghetti dish.