All photos by Robert Sietsema (@robertsietsema)
This Columbus Day, we have many things to be thankful for, even though Columbus didn’t really discover America. But we might consider the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria as a sort of advance scouting party for the millions of Italian immigrants who were later to arrive, encounter abject discrimination, persevere, and eventually triumph as one of the greatest influences on contemporary American culture—especially in the area of food.
When they arrived here, many from the southern regions of Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily, Italian immigrants found most of the things they were accustomed to cooking with—air-cured pig products, sheep’s-milk cheeses, multiple forms of dried pasta, fresh herbs, and buffalo mozzarella, to name a few—simply not available. So they remade their own cuisine with quintessentially American products, creating a new sum much better than its constituent parts, and eventually making Italian-American cuisine one of the world’s best (and most underappreciated).
Here are 10 signature Italian contributions to American gastronomy.