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Newsy / Kevin Clancy

Americans Have Italian Food All Wrong

Italian food has become a huge part of American culture, but our visit to this NYC restaurant shows we've had it wrong all this time.

By Noor Tagouri | October 27, 2016

New York City has the largest population of Italians in all of North America. 

So obviously, that means there is no shortage of pizza and pasta in this city. And we hear that Via Della Pace, or VDP, in the East Village is the perfect place to experience Italy in America. In this episode of "Americanize Me," Newsy's Noor Tagouri went to check it out.

"I grew up with Parmesean," said Giovanni Bartocci, co-owner of Via Della Pace. "My mom gave me my first piece of Parmesan cheese when I was 5 months, and I was sucking it. I had my first espresso when I was probably 4 years old. My breakfast as a kid was a piece of bread with prosciutto. We have the best chefs in the world, and we have the best food."

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And by food, he means real Italian food. So when it comes to spaghetti and meatballs? Not Italian. Fettuccini Alfredo? Not Italian, either. The truth hurts, I know.

"At the same time, I was very against what people think is Italian-American food, like spaghetti meatballs or fettuccini Alfredo. That's not Italian," Bartocci said. "It was someone who did that in the states. It was an Italian chef. That's it. The thing is, your grandmother would do meatballs, and the meatballs come with the sauce. So with the sauce of the meatballs, she would do the pasta. And when you finish the spaghetti, on the same plate, she will put meatballs, but it's not all together. Most of the people say, 'Can I have spaghetti and meatballs,' and we bring first the spaghetti and then a side of meatballs. That's the way in Italy we do it. We always have an appetizer and main course."

When you're Italian, you're pretty much born with the talent of creating incredible food dishes. But training in the skill starts at a really young age.

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"I start working in a restaurant environment when I was 14," Bartocci said. "I believe that food is one of the most important things in our life. We're trying to make people feel at home here. This is my home, and mi casa es tu casa, as they say in Spanish. La mia casa é tua casa. I'm expecting people to come here and just feel at home, an Italian home."

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