They lied. There are actually three certainties in life: death, taxes, and the innate superiority of Italian food.
From the proliferation of fully trained baristas everywhere, to the ubiquitous pizza, Italian food's influence can be felt far and wide. And that's precisely why there needs to be some kind of order imposed: this is not a free-for-all, this is not frippery. It's food and it's important, so here's a list of rules everyone should know before being allowed to eat Italian;
1.Eat pasta with a fork. Just a fork. That's right, no spoon, and for the love of everything decent and good, no knife. You even ask for a spoon in some restaurants in Italia and you immediately mark yourself out as a cafone. And take it from me that you do NOT want to be one of those.
"But how do I do it correctly?" I hear you cry. Don't put too much gravy on the pasta (that's right: gravy. Not sauce). Eat pasta out of a bowl rather than off a plate. Use the edge of bowl to impose structural integrity on your twirling methodology if necessary. Pierce several strands with your fork, twirl. Eat. Enjoy.
2.Panino/Panini. The debate rages on. But not for much longer. Panino is singular. Panini is plural. Ergo, one panino, multiple panini. You ask for a single panini and you mark yourself out as a rank amateur. If you can't say it, you shouldn't be able to eat it. That is all. Do it properly and be part of the exclusive club of people who know.
3."Lar-tay." Oh please. It's latte. Latte. Pronounced lat-teh.
4.Cream is not an ingredient in Spaghetti Carbonara. Simplicity is key here. Spaghetti, egg, pancetta, parmesan. Pan-fry pancetta. Boil pasta. Put pasta into a large bowl with the raw egg and stir - the heat of the past will cook the egg. Add pancetta. Liberally add grated parmesan. Stir before parmesan coagulates.
5.Garlic bread and pasta combination. Not sure how this one's come about. Some bread (plain) is permitted post pasta to mop up leftover gravy scarpetta-style. The carb/carb combo is allowed in some circumstances - namely as part of the magnificent pasta al pesto con fagiolini e patate.
6.The spaghetti-bolognese fallacy. Or worse, "spag-bol." The immutable cri de Coeur of the unimaginative and ill-informed. That gelatinous quagmire of the over-cooked, bloated spaghetti doused in supermarket brand gravy with mince and mushrooms thrown in. That's not food. It certainly ain't Italian food.
It's very simple to make a basic sugo: Start with a soffrito (gently fry processed onions, carrots and celery together until translucent), brown mince, season with salt and pepper. Chuck in some passata, or even better, a couple of tubes of tomato puree. Add wine, stock. Then simmer gently for at least two hours. That's the important bit. You'll know it's ready when the tomato and meat have melded. It's hard to be more precise than that with a gravy recipe. When it's right, you just know.
7.That woeful, desperate, pale-poor imitation of parmesan: pre-grated 'cheese' in a plastic tub. Given the option between this and death, I choose death and so should you.
8.And remaining within the arena of cheese, you will highlight your own miserable failings as a human being if you have cheese with seafood pasta. The implication is that the seafood isn't fresh, and frankly, who would want to imply this? It also tastes bad.
There are more, but staying within these basic parametres should see you right, after all, thousands of years of culinary tradition can't be wrong. But some rules are made to be broken: I take issue with the no cappuccino after 11am thing, they're good any time of day. That's the one that's probably worth bending.