One day I was abroad in a five star hotel restaurant, I was waiting for an ‘improbable’ risotto with porcini mushrooms and, at the table near mine, four businessmen were sitting and chatting in German in an animated way. Two waiters arrived and served them two plates of spaghetti with mussels and two places of seafood risotto. Or so the menu described.

The dish was presented with the mussels already out of their shells and were literally swimming in the reddish sauce. Above the spaghetti, as a garnish, were two mussels in their shells and the usual and inappropriate sprig of curly parsley.

Both risottos were a reddish color and full of cheap giant squid. You could also spot a few shrimps, but there was not a hint of seafood. On top of the risottos and as a garnish, there were two mussels with yellow shells and the omnipresent curly parsley. These two dishes of Italian cuisine are very low end.

The climax of the lunch was when the four diners asked one of the waiters for Parmigiano Reggiano. Like in a horror film, the restaurant manager rushed to their table with the cheese (if it was Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano or parmesan we will never know).

In Italian cuisine the use of Parmigiano Reggiano on fish dishes is considered absolutely barbaric and is in the worst taste possible.
For Italians it represent almost an act of culinary vandalism both for the seafood that lose its characteristic taste and for the Parmigiano Reggiano that not have the worthy justice.

The manager of any Italian restaurant should, in my opinion, diplomatically explain and educate customers that are not Italian. What must be said is that the use of Parmigiano Reggiano is not appropriate and it would comprise the flavor of the dish irrevocably.

Drawn from Fettuccine Alfredo, Spaghetti Bolognaise & Caesar Salad by Maurizio Pelli.

For info: The Culinary Clinic by Maurizio Pelli.