Adelaide has seen a boom in Italian cuisine. The last 12 months alone have seen the opening of Croydon Social, Pizzateca, Antica, Godi La Vita and Pane e Latte, with two more Italian restaurants set to open in summer.
The menus have changed too. A trend has sparked with regionally styled pizzas and lightly dressed pasta appearing instead of the once ubiquitous fettucine Alfredo and thick-crust “meatlovers”. So how did we get from meatlovers to margherita?
An increase in travel and information-sharing has seen a shift back to tradition and regionalism in food. Where Italian migrants once had to cater to an unfamiliar Australian palate, younger generations are now freer to experiment with a market of food lovers hungry for authenticity.
“Newer generations are able to travel more and explore their homelands, so they might focus on specific regional cuisine because they can get to know it better,” says former Hilton Hotel chef Matthew Contarino, who spent six months travelling through Italy, researching the regional cuisines and collecting cooking techniques.
Contarino says many countries outside of Europe have seen a bastardisation of regional Italian cuisines. “There’s no such thing as ‘Italian’ food,” he says. “An Italian wouldn’t put spaghetti with Bolognese sauce, or spaghetti with meatballs.” In the north, where heavy meat sauces such as Bolognese originated, fresh ribbon-style pasta such as tagliatelle is favoured. Spaghetti and penne are usually made in the south. “The wheat in the south is harder and it benefits from being dried,” says Contarino.
Dr Laura Prosperi, Italian native and former professor at the University of Adelaide’s Food Studies program, explains the divide between the north and south: “The northern regions are much closer to continental Europe and have always relied on animal fat. There is also a limited variety of vegetables due to a cooler climate, and millet, corn and rice are considered the core cereals,” she says.
“The southern pattern is entirely different and the staple foods are what we call “Mediterranean cuisine”, which is olive oil, wheat and fresh vegetables.” During her time in Adelaide, Prosperi noticed a significant pattern in Italian cuisine. “Emilia-Romagna [North-Central Italy] and Campania [Southern Italy] are by far the most represented regional styles in Adelaide,” she says.
Emilia-Romagna is the region responsible for Bolognese sauce, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and the parmigiana. Campania houses the regional capital, Naples – famed for its light, round, thick-crusted pizzas. Restaurants like Etica, Napoli Pizzeria, Antica and Pizzateca are examples of the influx of Neapolitan cuisine at modern eateries in Adelaide. Etica has been certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (True Neapolitan Pizza Association).
Tastes of Campania can also be found at Lucia’s in the Adelaide Central Markets, who makes a traditional dessert from Strega liqueur. Andre’s Cucina and Polenta Bar specialises in Venetian cuisine with variations on polenta served year-round, and Minestra offers Calabrese fare with a twist. Two more pizzerias, Etica: Pizza al Taglio and Chicco Palms, will open in the coming months with a focus on Roman-style pizza.