The Italian Dishes You Should Really Shouldn't Add Parmesan To

If you've ever been to Italy, you know Italians take food seriously and expertly craft their dishes using the freshest ingredients. Here in America, we've adopted many of their foods (who doesn't love pizza and pasta?), but sometimes still miss the mark when trying to eat like true Italians. In fact, there are a handful of foods we've labeled as Italian that you'll be hard-pressed to find in the motherland. For example, garlic bread, marinara sauce, and pepperoni are all American inventions — instead, whilst in Italy, try ordering bruschetta, pasta "al Pomodoro," or prosciutto, respectively (via Eat This, Not That!).

Not only are Italians selective about what foods they make, but they're also particular about how their dishes are served. Here in America, we like to customize everything to make it diet-friendly, or simply tailored to our taste buds, but Italians tend to know what they like and stick to it. The caveat here is that even in Italy, different regions can adhere to different rules. According to a survey conducted by Forbes, lasagna from Naples must include meatballs, Romans are disgusted by cream in their carbonara, and a ragu from Bologna should never include tomato sauce. 

Despite some regional differences, however, there are some universal, unspoken food rules that will appall most Italians if broken.

Seafood and Parmesan don't mix

While Italians make delicious cheeses, from Parmigiano Reggiano to Grana Padano, you don't have their permission to dump them on any food you want. According to Food & Wine, strong cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano are acceptable on heavier sauces like ragu, but cover up the lighter flavors in seafood and should be left out of these dishes. Rome restaurant manager Raffaele Ruggiero explained to the outlet, "Usually, when you have this kind of gastronomic experience, there's no need to add more cheese because the recipe has already been studied by the chefs." And who are we to question Italian chefs? If you're a parmesan lover, though, Why Italians explains that it's okay to grate it on almost every type of pasta, except fish and seafood dishes like linguine alle vongole, spaghetti allo scoglio, and gnocchi ai gamberi.

This is just one of many Italian food customs, however. According to Boundless Roads, using a spoon to eat spaghetti is unnecessary — Italians prefer to twirl the fork against their plate, which accomplishes the same thing with one less dirty dish. Also, American early birds will most likely be disappointed when dining out in Italy, as their dinners usually aren't eaten until after 7 pm and can last for hours, even on weeknights (via More Time to Travel). But the most important rule? According to Eat Like an Italian, it's to "enjoy your food and stop feeling guilty about it!"