Chef Paola Santagati

The Local Expert

Personal Chef

Italia Cuisine Co.

3601 Vineland Road, Suite 1, Orlando



Q: How is authentic Italian cuisine different from what most of us are used to?

A: Here in the United States, most Americans enjoy what I call Italian-American food. It might have started out as pure Italian, but somewhere along the way it gradually succumbed to influences from the American palate.

Americans tend to go bigger and bolder, eschewing the delicacy and nuance of flavor. They use more cheese, more meat, and more garlic, with fewer vegetables in their pasta dishes. While delicious and authentically Italian-American, these dishes are not authentic Italian.

When I think of authentic Italian cuisine, my first thoughts always turn to my mother, Nella, and my grandmother, Mara, working in their kitchens. I loved to be close by, listening to them discuss their recipes. I liked seeing the simple, fresh ingredients on the countertop. I can still smell the aroma of olive oil as it fused with the herbs they had just picked from their windowsill gardens.

My mother and grandmother had been cooking authentic Italian food for their families all their lives. They cooked simply, using fresh vegetables, olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic, and herbs—their mainstays were fresh basil and oregano.

And, of course, there was pasta. Authentic Italian food is not smothered in cheese and heavy sauce. Sauces are light, and cheese is often served on the side. Authentic Italian food is also not heavy with garlic. In fact, in a quest for balance in its dishes, authentic Italian food is made so that no one ingredient stands out or overpowers the rest. Rather, each ingredient is there to support and complement the others. Also, in contrast to mounded spaghetti and meatball dinner plates in Italian-American food, authentic Italian foods are most often served in small portions.

To experience and, more importantly, taste what I am talking about, visit me at and I will teach you what it takes to cook authentic Italian cuisine.

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