Pina Bresciani is Italian-Canadian and lives in Vancouver in Canada, here she writes on her blog Pinabresciani.com proposing her cooking recipes, many of which inspired by her visits to Italy.
Here is our interview:
HOW WAS YOUR PASSION FOR ITALIAN FOOD BORN?
In many ways! I’m Italian-Canadian, so growing up here in Canada, many family gatherings revolved around food. My family would gather every Sunday for dinner, and I always looked forward to them. I loved watching my mom and zie cook these beautiful dinners and I started learning from there – this was one way that my love for Italian food was born.
Growing up, I would spend every summer in Italy visiting my grandparents. These visits were filled with special times with my family, but also with delicious food. Mozzarelle di bufala, spaghetti alle vongole (they live by the sea), paste, gelati, and so many other delicious treats. It is here that I grew to appreciate and love traditional Italian food.
HOW IS ITALIAN FOOD PERCEIVED IN CANADA?
Italian food is very popular in Canada. In my city, Vancouver, there’s always a new Italian restaurant or pizzeria opening. Canadians love Italian food!
They especially love pizza and pasta, and these are the most popular items on Italian restaurant menus.
However Italian food can also be misunderstood in Canada, and in North America in general. It is misunderstood because Italian food has evolved over time in North America – with different ingredients available and with different environments, Italian immigrants began to make variations of Italian cuisine. Many popular “Italian” dishes here are in fact “Italian American” in North America, and these include spaghetti and meatballs, chicken parmesan, rainbow cookies, or pasta Alfredo with heavy cream. Italians know that these are not authentic Italian dishes, but generally, people in Canada/North America think they are.
This is not to say that Italian American or Italian Canadian food is bad, or wrong, but rather, if we are to understand the culture of Italian cooking, one must understand the difference between what is authentic Italian, and what is not. Italian American food can be delicious in its own right, but I feel it is important to see the distinction between the two cuisines, especially when looking at the respective cultural dishes. I’ve noticed in Vancouver, there is an effort from new Italian immigrants to create authentic Italian restaurants inspired by their region.
WHAT IS THE MOST FAMOUS ITALIAN DISH IN CANADA?
Neapolitan pizza is gaining in popularity in Vancouver. For the longest time, there was only one Neapolitan pizza place, and now there are at least 20; it seems like a new pizzeria is always opening.
Carbonara is also very famous here (it’s on almost every Italian and even non Italian restaurants’ menu), even though an authentic carbonara is hard to find. Pancetta is used instead of guanciale in many instances, with peas and heavy cream added too. I understand that restaurants may want to make their carbonara unique, or make it in a way that is attractive to a wider audience, but for me, I am a traditionalist and always appreciate a carbonara that is faithful to the true Roman style.
PINA, WHAT ARE THE PRODUCTS/DISHES THAT YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT CANADIAN FOOD AND THAT YOU’D RECOMMEND ALL ITALIAN TRY?
In Canada, we celebrate a holiday called Thanksgiving. The typical Thanksgiving meal that all Canadians eat is a whole turkey stuffed with bread, onions, celery and black pepper. This filling is called “stuffing” and it is delicious! Side dishes at this Thanksgiving meal include mashed potatoes, and brussel sprouts with bacon. Thanksgiving dinner would not be complete without gravy (a sauce made with turkey drippings and flour) and cranberry sauce. We add the gravy to the turkey and mashed potatoes.
We end the meal with pumpkin pie, which is made with a type of shortcrust pastry crust and filled with sweet pureed pumpkin, and flavoured with pumpkin spice (cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg), with whipped cream. Every Italian should have a Thanksgiving dinner at least once!
WHAT IS A TRADITIONAL ITALIAN DISH THAT YOU ARE PARTICULARLY TIED TO?
I have two. One from my mom’s side of the family, and one from my dad’s side of the family.
My mom is from Sperlonga, Latina. Sperlonga is located right on the sea, so I love my Zia Leonina’s spaghetti alle vongole. There’s something truly special about the dish. She uses cherry tomatoes and the water from the clams to make the sauce with a bit of parsley. I look forward to eating it every time I go to Sperlonga. I’ve made it here in Vancouver (find the recipe here), but it just doesn’t come out the same (still very good though!). I think it is the fresh Italian ingredients that make food extra flavourful.
My dad is from Pofi, Frosinone, so a dish that is very popular in the Bresciani family is chicken with peppers (pollo con i peperoni). I believe this dish is from Rome, but since Frosinone is so close to Rome, it makes sense the dish is popular there too. I love the beautiful flavor that the chicken takes on from the peppers, tomatoes and rosemary – something truly special! I make the dish a few times a year and it is so good. I look forward to the beautiful aroma that fills my kitchen.
NEW PROJECTS FOR YOUR BLOG?
My mission is to promote authentic Italian food, and I hope to do this through my blog. Many people come to me and say “wow I had no idea that this is what authentic Italian food is!” And that makes me so happy. I hope to continue publishing more authentic recipes, and expanding my collection so others will have almost every type of Italian dish for their kitchen!
WHAT ARE YOUR DREAMS/BUCKET LIST?
There are many! Especially when it comes to Italian food. I would love to write a cookbook, all about authentic Italian food, maybe even a TV show! I also want to take a pasta class (or a few!) with a sfoglina because I love making fresh pasta.
I hope to travel to more places in Italy and experience more of the magic that is Italian food – have cannoli and arancini in Sicily, pizza in Naples, bolognese and tortellini in Bologna, focaccia and pesto in Genoa…the list goes on!