Thursday, May 8, 2008

How Italian is…. 'traditional Italian' ?

Tuesday evening, tidbit hosted a very nice family. They were celebrating a birthday and they were all very nice and kind. In the middle of their dinner, the youngest of the family, a sweet young girl, came to me and she asked me nicely and politely: “My mom would like to know what type of Italian soda you have”. There was a moment of silence on my side. “Wait a minute – I was thinking – I am Italian and I do not know what this cute girl is asking for?”

My mind went back to when I first moved to Seattle, about nine years ago and I was in graduate school at the UW. One day, I was having a conversation with one of my colleagues; when I told him I was from Italy, he said: “Italian food is my favorite and I always eat Alfredo”. I had no idea what Alfredo pasta was before that day.

Tuesday evening, John had to refresh my memory about Italian soda, a mix of flavored syrup, soda water, and cream. I also e-mailed my friends in Italy and their answers are making me feel better: they also have no idea what Italian sodas are. Today, I made a little research and I discovered that the Italian soda recipe did not originate in Italy. Here is what I found: Surprisingly, the Italian soda recipe we know today did not originate in Italy. Some sources credit an immigrant Italian family living in San Francisco during the 1920s with concocting the familiar syrup and sparkling water beverage. Using imported coffee flavorings from Italy, the family would mix up their Italian soda recipe in the back room of their grocery store. The drink soon became popular as an alternative to flavored coffees or espresso. Eventually, the recipe would be picked up and refined by mainstream coffeehouse chains all over the US.

We are not adding Italian sodas to our list of drinks unless more people ask for them. Lasat Tuesday, we offered our sweet guest some of the San Pellegrino products: in addition to the popular water, San Pellegrino produced soda water with concentrated juices of orange, lemon, chinotto, and bitters. These drinks are called respectively Aranciata, Limonata, Chinotto, and Sanbitter. You can find them all at tidbit bistro.

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