The Biggest Challenges of the Italian Category? Restaurant Professionals Weigh In
To kick off Sapore, we put out a request for ideas by asking you, our readers, about the greatest challenges facing Italian restaurant operators today. We were humbled by your insights and suggestions, as well as the enthusiasm with which you are welcoming Sapore into your reading rotation for industry news and stories. If ever we needed confirmation that we were on the right track in launching a new platform specific to the Italian restaurant category, you gave it to us. For that, we will be forever grateful as we strive to bring you the very best content that will help drive your business, whether you own a single restaurant or dozens.
Below is a brief overview of the larger themes—plus a few more specific suggestions—we gleaned from your responses. This feedback will go far in guiding our coverage and ensuring we address the topics most important to you.
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The importance of imports
The U.S. may boast some of the most advanced food equipment in the world, but certain appliances and tools—including centuries-old, low-tech items—remain specialties to the motherland. It’s a similar situation for ingredients. Talk to any chef who has worked in Italy, and she will eagerly extoll the superior quality of certain flours, oils, and other foods that elevate the cuisine to an exceptional level. Deciding which foreign products are worth the extra investment, deciphering the intricate regulations around imports, and, in the case of perishables, ensuring proper delivery are top-of-mind concerns for Italian restaurant operators.
As with any imported cuisine, the food is destined to change and adapt to its new environment. Just as Chinese-American fare has become a general catchall for a vast country with varied flavor profiles and dishes, Italian-American has overwhelmingly cherry-picked foods from distinctive regions into a unified category. But as so-called foodie culture continues to infiltrate the U.S., consumers and restaurateurs alike are calling for a new focus on diverse, regionally defined cuisines that champion the authenticity and rich culinary variety within Italy. After all, you’d be hard-pressed to find a polenta dish in Naples, just as you won’t encounter a Milanese-style pizza.
New American meet New Italian
At the same, a return to Old World traditions and dishes is not the only path forward for the Italian category. Operators are eager to explore unexpected flavor mash-ups and fresh, new cooking techniques. One respondent suggested that a “modern California” style pizza was taking hold—and that West Coast spin could go beyond just pies to also include other iconic dishes. Another operator considered the idea of an Italian gastropub wherein beer pairings were spotlighted over the conventional wine line-up.