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Better Ethnic Restaurants Without Mass Immigration: The Italian Example

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One of the most common arguments for mass immigration is ethnic restaurants. Immigrants from Thailand, for example, introduced the now ubiquitous Thai restaurants.

But, one thing that strikes me is that Thai restaurants haven’t improved all that much since the 1980s, while Italian restaurants, despite not much immigration from Italy, have continued to improve.

One reason for this is that most of the Thai immigrants working in Thai restaurants don’t really care about cuisine. They care about moving to America to make more money, and working in a Thai restaurant is just something Thais do for the money when they come to America. In contrast, a fair fraction of the relatively small numbers of Italians who move to America today are Italian cooking fanatics intent on bringing higher standards to Italian restaurants in America.

I’ve been pointing this out since 2003, but here’s an NYT article that illustrates the impressive progress on the Italian side after the end of the age of mass immigration from Italy:

Mezzaluna, the Little Restaurant That Started a Revolution
By BRYAN MILLER MARCH 21, 2016

An urbane, soft-spoken former auto executive, Aldo Bozzi does not fit the mold of a driven Manhattan restaurateur — much less one who almost single-handedly, if inadvertently, set off a restaurant revolution in the United States and beyond.

And Mezzaluna, his colorful and cacophonous little trattoria on the Upper East Side, hardly seems the setting for any kind of upheaval. Yet in a fresh and unassuming way, it introduced a style of modern Italian dining that still informs restaurants today, from Mario Batali’s new La Sirena in Manhattan to the much lauded Poggio Trattoria in Sausalito, Calif.

“I never imagined I would be doing this, and 30 years later,” Mr. Bozzi, 75, said recently over lunch at Mezzaluna. “When I started, I simply wanted to have a place that served the kind of food I was accustomed to growing up in Italy.”

That kind of food was found in classic trattorias, which are ubiquitous today. But in 1984, when Mezzaluna opened, they were all but unknown in this country.

“When I first visited Mezzaluna, I felt so excited that New York at last had a genuine Milanese trattoria,” said Danny Meyer, the president of Union Square Hospitality Group and a crusader for authentic Italian cooking at Maialino, Marta and other restaurants. This was a year before Mr. Meyer started his company with the debut of Union Square Cafe. “The success of Mezzaluna reinforced my confidence in the direction we were heading.”

Back then, most Italian restaurants in Manhattan came in two flavors: old-style red sauce spots, and fancy Frenchified salons sporting tuxedoed captains, leather banquettes, elegant flatware and menus the size of a small-town phone book. Il Monello, Il Nido, Tre Scalini, Barbetta — all are gone except Barbetta.

The cooking at many of these high-end dining rooms focused largely on the classics, embracing gastronomic barbells like béchamel-bound lasagna, fettuccine Alfredo and spaghetti alla carbonara in bounteous portions.

A traditional trattoria, on the other hand, is small, family-run, assiduously local, inexpensive and features exceptional ingredients served by authentic Italian people not wearing tuxedos. Attempting to define today’s urban iteration is like trying to describe the average automobile: It can be sleek, stylish and fast; modest, dependable and leisurely; or even homey.

Several reputable restaurateurs took a stab at the trattoria format in the early days: at Trattoria da Alfredo, Nanni and, most notably, the celebrity clubhouse Da Silvano, which opened in 1975 and still thrives. But none rallied a culinary uprising the way Mezzaluna did.

“Aldo succeeded because he saw that there was a fundamental transformation going on in our society at the time,” said Piero Selvaggio, owner of the luxurious Valentino restaurant in Santa Monica, Calif. Mr. Selvaggio pointed to the new wave of Italian immigrants in the early 1980s.

“They were better educated,” he said. “They had a different lifestyle, different tastes, and Mezzaluna captured that.” (In 1985, Mr. Selvaggio opened a trattoria called Primi, in Santa Monica, which he sold in 2001.)

In other words, immigration from Italy in the 1980s was low in numbers but high in human capital.

With a degree from one of Milan’s elite business schools, Mr. Bozzi joined the Alfa Romeo company in 1965. Three years later, he was dispatched to New York, where he rose to president of North American operations. During this time, he traveled the country extensively. Being a worldly epicure, he spent much time seeking out authentic Italian restaurants, a challenge akin to finding Alpine skiing in Delaware. …

Along with his chef (and now partner), Paolo Casagranda, Mr. Bozzi built a menu around innovative pizzas, 17 in all. While they may not seem so groundbreaking today, in 1985 many were eye-opening: speck smoked with juniper or pine wood, imported broccoli rabe marinated in garlic vinegar, burrata, wild mushrooms. Many of the pastas were made with imported gragnano, a handmade dried pasta from Naples.

Portions were modest, to encourage a variety of tastings. Among other firsts, Mezzaluna placed cruets of excellent olive oil on dining tables, from his small family estate outside Florence. There were no main courses, only carpacci; bright, composed salads with seafood and meats cooked in the wood oven; pastas with roasted vegetables; shellfish; and one dessert, tiramisù. (The current menu is larger.)

“This was the forerunner of lighter and smaller plates,” said Nick Valenti, the chief executive of the hospitality company Patina Restaurant Group, who was so impressed by Mezzaluna that he enlisted Mr. Bozzi as a consultant, an arrangement that continues.

A savvy oenophile, Mr. Bozzi was dismayed by the poor quality of house wines in most American restaurants. With Mr. Casagranda’s input, he mounted a blackboard and presented six whites and six reds by the glass from quality producers like Gaja, Antinori and Mastroberardino.

Mezzaluna opened in June 1984. In characteristic New York fashion, the moment the news media ebulliently broadcast its arrival, a Pamplona scene ensued. Its 45 neighborly tables turned more than 10 times a day, while the overtaxed pizza oven devoured more wood than a paper plant in Maine.

In 1987, Mr. Bozzi and a partner opened a larger trattoria, Mezzogiorno, in SoHo. It quickly became a haunt of the downtown art world. The art dealer Leo Castelli dined there seven days a week. (Mezzogiorno closed last fall, owing to a lease issue, and reopened on the Upper West Side.)

The outward trek of the American trattoria gained traction in 1988, when three Mezzaluna employees fashioned a snazzy replica, just a calzone’s toss up Third Avenue, called Ciao Bella. Several years later, they opened Bella Blu, on Lexington Avenue, followed by others. By then, numerous trattorias of all stripes were sprouting in Manhattan with names like Le Madri, Cent’Anni, Coco Pazzo, Serafina and Mediterraneo.

Riding on the prevailing culinary winds, trattoria spores drifted far and wide. Mr. Bozzi dabbled in licensing the Mezzaluna brand in Aspen, Colo.; Beverly Hills, Calif.; and the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles — the scene of Nicole Brown Simpson’s last meal.

So, without mass immigration we can still have restaurants that continually improve.

 

224 Comments to "Better Ethnic Restaurants Without Mass Immigration: The Italian Example"

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  1. The best Italian restaurant in America is Franny’s in Brooklyn.

    Also at top Thai places they usually have a Thai menus only for Thai people. There are a few samizdat translated menues white foodies can find, usually on chowhound or in Chicago the food message board is lthforum.com. White people usually find real Thai too spicy.

    Also, is there a more delightful people in the world than Thai folks? Wee like the Welsh with much better food.

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  2. If there were more market demand for high-end Thai cuisine, you can be sure the industry would adapt. The reason there is a lot of mediocre Thai cuisine is because that’s what lots of consumers are happy with, which is the same reason we still have lots of mediocre pizza joints, even as there is also a thriving high-end Italian restaurant business.

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  3. At a Thai place in Highland Park, NJ, I and other white customers were constantly warned by servers not to order “medium spicy” unless we were prepared to eat very hot food. I tried medium and can confirm the warning was wise. I’m not sure why they didn’t just call “medium” “spicy” and “spicy” “very spicy”, but they might have been catering more for a Thai clientele.

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  4. Who busses the tables and washes the dishes? I bet Mexicans.

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  5. How much is regional influence? I.e., distance from Po Valley to Sicily may be as important as difference between Milanese executive and Palermo ditch digger.

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  6. In Chicago there is an elaborate, very expensive Thai place on the upper northwest side. Also, there is a Thai place with an English name that appears to be owned by a westerner who learned to cook in Thailand.

    Other than those, most thai place in Chicago operate on the mass production of existing entrees. I always wondered why there was not more exploration. There is even a place that serves food from different regions of Thailand but it still does not expand on what they brought over.

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  7. How many Thai immigrants are there? Outside of restaurants, that is? Don’t go by the census, except by language; many Thailand natives are Hmong.

    St Paul has had Afghan restaurants since 1962, and a Kurdish one since at least the 1980s, with hardly any immigrants other than the restaurateurs.

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  8. Italy crosses a lot of degrees of latitude, which affects local crops considerably.

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  9. Anonymous
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    Yeah, but most of these nicer places are too expensive, even by NYC standards. Most of us have to settle for Ray’s Pizza.

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  10. Speaking of Thai cuisine: here in the Seattle area it’s really hard to find an authentic Thai restaurant. Most customers are Americans, so most restaurants serve Americanized versions of Thai dishes – blah. On the other hand it’s pretty easy to find really good Chinese restaurants, and in those most customers are Chinese. If you walk into a Chinese restaurant and most customers are Americans, you can just walk away. It seems that to have good ethnic restaurants, you need to have a sizable population of that ethnicity to serve as main customer base.

    Exceptions to the rule above: there aren’t many Japanese, but there are some excellent sushi restaurants. There are countless Indians, but any time I asked an Indian coworker to recommend a good Indian restaurant, I was told “there aren’t any”. That may be due to very diverse home base, i.e. I don’t know if Tamils like Punjabi dishes and vice versa.

    Now speaking of the high human capital, the most authentic Thai restaurant in the area is not run by cooks, but by a youngish Thai husband/wife couple that were both TV actors in Bangkok and are way more cultured and sophisticated than your average Thai hick who’s going to open a restaurant not because he likes food, but because it’s a way to make a living.

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  11. “… salons sporting tuxedoed captains, leather banquettes, elegant flatware and menus the size of a small-town phone book. Il Monello, Il Nido, Tre Scalini, Barbetta — all are gone except Barbetta.

    The cooking at many of these high-end dining rooms focused largely on the classics, embracing gastronomic barbells like béchamel-bound lasagna, fettuccine Alfredo and spaghetti alla carbonara in bounteous portions.”

    Rich Manhattanites were easier marks back then – paying through the nose for cheap, easy to cook, hard to mess up starch. (No one in Italy knows what fettuccine Alfredo is, and spaghetti alla carbonara, though an excellent dish, was invented for the GIs in Rome in 1944.)

    Actually, most Thai restaurants in the US are operated by Chinese and Koreans – and immigrant Asian cooks have to be taught to make bland, gloopy Chinese-American, Japanese-American and Thai-American dishes anyway.

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  12. Anonymous
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    This was never a serious argument for immigration. The reality is that most Americans are perfectly happy with meatloaf and potatoes every night, and only a small minority of foodies and wealthy people who can waste money eating out really care about exotic cuisine.

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  13. “If there were more market demand for high-end Thai cuisine, you can be sure the industry would adapt. The reason there is a lot of mediocre Thai cuisine is because that’s what lots of consumers are happy with”

    Bad Thai drives out good. But even in high end Thai could exist with middle brow Thai, Sailer’s argument is that mass immigration is not necessary for good “ethnic” cuisine, nor is it sufficient. I’d argue even further…one of the best burrito bar burritos I’ve had was near Fleet Street in London. The owner was a brit who had travelled in Mexico and the US extensively, the grill man was a red haired London Irish guy, and the girls doing the ‘fixings’ part of the bar were eastern european and South American. ‘Now that we have the recipe’ indeed!

    That said, I’m a big fan of ‘inauthentic’ “ethnic” restaurants. When I was a wee child, a lot of Chinese restaurants still sported ‘Cantonese Cuisine’ on the neon sign in front of the business. The menus started with pages of ‘tropical’ drinks, and then all the classic appetizers for a poo-poo platter. Delightfully inauthentic, but pretty good. And in a sense, really American. So to many of the Japanese-American favorites (teriyaki anything), and ‘red sauce joints’.

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  14. I heard the same story about high-end Italian cooking coming to the US in the 1970s except they credited Marcella Hazan.

    For my money, you can’t beat Pina Pizza House in Downey, California. It’s old school red-sauce all the way, but that’s how I like it. I went to Valentino once on my birthday – meh.

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  15. You are talking about Arun’s. Way too expensive and really hit and miss.

    TAC Quick on Sheffield is more or less the best Thai I had, but I am a sucker for the Americanized Thai. When it first opened Tamarind ? On North across the street from Oak Park was good, but has backslid because high end Thai is hard to do.

    Sticky Rice and Spoon Thai on Western both have the samizdat Thai menus. Again, I can’t get into that but those who do like those joints.

    Steve: no golf course angle here, but the pins are going in in Chicago land!

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  16. I’ve proposed a corollary to this Sailer rule several places — it is that cheap line cook labor wrecks a lot of American (and other) cooking.

    I had this epiphany in the Mission District in San Francisco, where going to a Hipster retro comfort food place, I was served a stroganoff with a broken sauce, my dinner companion had horrid Mac and Cheese (Kraft’s would have been better) that the waitress advised him to drown in Tapatio. And there, manning the stove in the open concept kitchen was a Guatemalan looking dude. And as my companion said — he’s making $12/hr, he doesn’t care if your sauce is broken.

    This is hardly the only time I’ve gotten crappy food at allegedly hip or upscale American places — ‘gastropub’/microbreweries are the usual culprit. I used to blame lousy American raw ingredients, and that may play a part. But I suspect that the dishes that feature huge portions but are at once overseasoned and bland can only be achieved by indifferent, Mexican and other MesoAmerican line cooks. I mean, it’s not like males cook in Mexico, so they really don’t know what they are doing when they get here. Same holds for gardening — people think Mexican ‘gardeners’ know what’s up because they presume they are from ‘the Rancho’. In fact they are pretty much butchers with anything but the simplest lawn.

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  17. Didn’t Esau give up his birthright for a dim sum burrito?

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  18. That’s probably what was going on. A bunch of Indian guys I worked with encouraged me to try some naan, claiming it was ‘not too spicy’.

    A few glasses of water later, I decided we had different ideas about what that meant. Or they could have been having fun with me.

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  19. The reality is that most Americans are perfectly happy with meatloaf and potatoes every night…

    Whenever I bring my wife’s meat loaf and mashed potato leftovers into the office for lunch, the Chinese guys never fail to tell me how good it smells.

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  20. Anonymous
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    Still doesn’t beat the unlimited breadsticks and NEVER ENDING PASTA BOWL® at Olive Garden:

    http://www.olivegarden.com/specials/never-ending-pasta-bowl

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  21. Anonymous # 12 is right.

    He is right in two senses. The first is his argument that there has never been anything wrong with the middlebrow American, meat and potatoes cuisine based off of the northern European immigrants that were the basic immigrant groups to the US. Its still good today if prepared the right way. What gave it a bad reputation was post 1960s, chain franchise McDonaldization’s of the cuisine, and then the damage done by post 1970s federal agricultural and nutrition policies. Neither of these had much to do with the cuisine itself.

    You also didn’t need the post 1965 immigration for variety. You always would have had high end French restaurants in the US, for example, even if the ethnic makeup of the US stayed as it was in 1800. But the conquest of Florida and parts of Mexico would have inevitably brought in Mexican influenced food. With the pre-1925 immigrant groups you still get Italian and Chinese influenced food (I realized all of these wound up being highly Americanized).

    But the second sense is that you don’t actually need immigrants to have foreign cuisine, you just have to have people who learn about the foreign food, get excited about it, and want to open a restaurant serving it. You are more likely to get more authentic food that way. Mormon missionaries to Brazil opened up a chain of good Brazilian restaurants in the West (my wife, who is Brazilian, liked the one she ate at), none of them staffed by Brazilians. Julia Child popularlized French cuisine. People in China and Japan like to eat western food when they eat out, my friend who is living in China does this all the time, just like westerners like to eat Chinese and Japanese food. They just copy the recipes, you don’t have poor French and Italian immigrants slaving in kitchens in Shanghai.

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  22. “For my money, you can’t beat Pina Pizza House in Downey, California. It’s old school red-sauce all the way, but that’s how I like it.”

    Of the countless restaurants in Manhattan, Rao’s is probably the most difficult one at which to get reservations. You pretty much have to know someone to stand a chance. Rao’s is, needless to say, a very traditional red sauce joint. It’s located in East Harlem, one of the very few remnants of what was once a thriving Italian-American neighborhood.

    Peter

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  23. Even in Kansas City, there are pretty decent Thai restaurants, and Mexican restaurants are a dime a dozen.

    But I can’t get a genuine, authentic, Neapolitan style Pizza Margherita (to say nothing of Pizza Capricciosa – a.k.a. heaven on earth) to save my life.

    We obviously need more Italian immigrants, and fewer Asians & Latinos.

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  24. To say nothing of Scottish Highlander restaurants.

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  25. A bunch of Indian guys I worked with encouraged me to try some naan, claiming it was ‘not too spicy’.

    It’s just bread, so it shouldn’t be a problem. I suspect what you were dipping it in was the problem.

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  26. Anonymous
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    Steve, any thoughts on the Hulk Hogan story? He’s getting even more money from Gawker. This $25 million is on top of the roughly $30 million he’s expected to get from the $115 total awarded to Hogan by the jury:

    “Hulk Hogan wins $25 million in punitive damages against Gawker”

    http://www.sfgate.com/nation/article/Hulk-Hogan-wins-25-million-in-punitive-damages-6932062.php

    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A Florida jury awarded a total of $25 million in punitive damages Monday in the Hulk Hogan sex tape trial, hitting Gawker Media with a $15 million judgment and its owner, Nick Denton, with $10 million.

    It also assessed $100,000 against A.J. Daulerio, the Gawker editor who decided to post the edited sex video and wrote the post that accompanied it. The punitive damages come on top of the $115 million the jury awarded Hogan on Friday in compensatory damages after two weeks of trial.

    Hogan sued Gawker after it posted a video of him having sex with his then-best friend’s wife.

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  27. I like white lasagna and spaghetti carbonara. Then again, I also like French haute cuisine served by waiters in tuxedos; I like German food, too – in other words, all the things it’s much harder to find today than the utterly ubiquitous trattoria-style Northern Italian that I am quite tired of. I miss those old-fashioned restaurant foods, and I miss the atmosphere that prevailed in the elegant French restaurants of yesteryear. Those were places for truly special occasions. People today eat out so much, and in such noisy and pedestrian spaces, that nothing special remains.

    I can make the lasagna and carbonara at home. Haute cuisine is beyond my culinary capabilities, and German food outside my kitchen ken. I miss them.

    Anyway, the point is that the food from the new immigrants is not really better than, just different from, what used to be popular (as long as it was well prepared), and it’s just as pretentious in its own way.

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  28. I flew into Philadelphia on Friday. It was cloudy except for the sun falling directly on majestic Merion, which looked to already be in US Open shape.

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  29. Anonymous
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    Even New York style pizza and decent Italian food haven’t spread to much of the country yet. Many people in flyover country have never even had NY style pizza.

    • Agree: Chrisnonymous
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  30. That said, I’m a big fan of ‘inauthentic’ “ethnic” restaurants. When I was a wee child, a lot of Chinese restaurants still sported ‘Cantonese Cuisine’ on the neon sign in front of the business. The menus started with pages of ‘tropical’ drinks, and then all the classic appetizers for a poo-poo platter. Delightfully inauthentic, but pretty good. And in a sense, really American. So to many of the Japanese-American favorites (teriyaki anything), and ‘red sauce joints’.

    Oh, yes. Sometimes I really have a craving for old-fashioned egg foo young or sweet and sour pork. Good stuff – the Saturday night dinners of my childhood. Wanton soup and chicken chow mein (with plenty of soy sauce): perfect on a cold winter day. Of course, an hour later you’re hungry again …

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  31. “When I started, I simply wanted to have a place that served the kind of food I was accustomed to growing up in …”

    Don’t we all? The trouble is that when you move to a different place the foods that are available are different and can never quite reproduce the flavors of childhood.

    For example, what dish could be as American as apple pie? Yet in the US I have never had a satisfactory apple pie that could rival the apple pies my grandmother made in England with what where just known as “cooking apples” or Bramleys, a large, sour green apple with firm flesh whose flavor counteracts the effect of a lot of sugar. These pies would often be blackberry-and-apple pies, because in England the apples and the blackberries both come to ripeness in the fall, and blackberries grow wild absolutely everywhere in England in hedgerows or on waste land, where they are also known as brambles. And then there were apple-and-blackcurrant pies too.

    You can buy blackberries frozen in the US, but they are large and tasteless. I have tried to make apple pies in the US, and the Fuji apples from Washington State in the fall are probably the best suited, but even so the pies are never quite as good. The restaurant pies are uniformly awful and terribly sweet, even those that restaurants claim to be home made.

    Likewise I love Greek food, but it has to be eaten outdoors on a terrace in the Aegean with the sound of Greek music somewhere in the background. I have never found a Greek restaurant in the US where the food was remotely tasty. Partly this is because chilled American tomatoes can never taste like sun-warmed Greek tomatoes.

    Even in the Dominican Republic, where restaurant food is mostly pretty awful, one notices that they have eggs that taste like eggs used to taste, and potatoes that taste like potatoes used to taste.

    The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there, but people never immigrate from the past to open restaurants for nostalgia starved diners.

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  32. Re #16, I’ve also noticed a decline in quality in American restaurants over the years, and have gradually cut back going to them as a result. I used to think this was due to the ingredients but you make a good case that the problem is with the kitchen staff.

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  33. But, one thing that strikes me is that Thai restaurants haven’t improved all that much since the 1980s

    Thai restaurants have indeed improved; it’s just that the most significant improvement was done by a white guy.

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  34. I can’t see how bad cuisine could drive out good if the market didn’t demand the worse, i.e. your definition of good and bad cuisine is idiosyncratic and doesn’t reflect most people’s preferences. It also just seems really dubious to argue that immigration makes food worse on its own; after all, with the increased competition at the labor end, there would be more incentives to offer better service at lower prices to attract customers.

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  35. This is hardly the only time I’ve gotten crappy food at allegedly hip or upscale American places — ‘gastropub’/microbreweries are the usual culprit. I used to blame lousy American raw ingredients, and that may play a part. But I suspect that the dishes that feature huge portions but are at once overseasoned and bland can only be achieved by indifferent, Mexican and other MesoAmerican line cooks.

    … supervised by senior cooks and management who did not grow up eating these foods prepared by ordinary American good cooks – that is, ordinary American housewives and mothers who liked and had a talent for cooking. There are two generations of people now who have no experience of eating good plain middle-American food as their everyday diet. People today laugh at the diet of the 50s and 60s and are horrified by how “unhealthy” it was, and yet obesity was far less common back then. Maybe eating home-cooked ordinary American meat loaf and mashed potatoes is actually better for you than the mishmash of fast food, junk food, and “healthy” but tasteless food that most young people seem to consume. Kale and quinoa salad, anyone?

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  36. I was talking about the exorbitant Arun’s.

    TAC Quick is pretty good. I forgot about them. Sticky Rice is excellent and the same price as your average Thai place. Still, Sailer has a great point with the food improvement.

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  37. The trouble with hip places is that they attract on atmosphere and make their money selling booze. The food is a tertiary concern. What’s the Tyler Cowen gag? “Don’t eat at restaurants with lots of beautiful women.”

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  38. Haggis joints, whatever became of ‘em. Probably got undercut in the Black Pudding chain expansion.

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  39. Many of the lower end pizzerias in the NYC area are now run by Greeks, Albanians and Arabs, with Central American workers. It’s a huge change from 20-30 years ago when I was growing up and all pizzerias that I knew of were run by Italians with all white workers.

    Thai restaurants in the USA are largely coming from Chinese and Filipinos and mostly suck.

    Koreans opened a bunch of horrible Mexican restaurants a few years ago but they seem to have all folded.

    Koreans seem to specialize in the most worthless businesses — “variety” stores that sell nothing but doo-rags and fake gold chains to a 100% ghetto black clientele or take out places selling inedible microwaved food — all with Central American slaves doing the physical work and Koreans behind the cash registers. I’ve seen a lot of Korean franchise type businesses open and fold quickly where the people running the joint could not speak English and seemed totally clueless about the products they were trying to sell.

    Indians seem to own and staff every single Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway in the NYC area.

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  40. Anonymous
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    A lot of the staples in the US like potatoes and tomatoes have been engineered to be bigger and bigger but completely flavorless and bland. I think it might be related to the popularization of white bread in the early 20th century that Steve blogged about before. These foods taste “clean” and are abundant in quantity, but are very bland.

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  41. Anonymous
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    Meanwhile, in Italy:

    “Italian city to limit ‘ethnic eateries’ after explosion in kebab shops”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/12175002/Italian-city-to-limit-ethnic-eateries-after-explosion-in-kebab-shops.html

    ” Italian city passes ruling limiting the number of “ethnic food” restaurants in the historic centre, saying it is concerned about protecting its cultural and culinary heritage in the wake of a boom in kebab shops “

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  42. anonymous
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    In DC’s Maryland suburbs Chinese restaurants and grocery stores have taken over what used to be a kaleidoscope of Greek, Italian, American and other restaurants.

    Chinese entrepreneurs figure if one guy is doing ok with a grocery store, another one or two just a block away will do equally well. So they build ‘em, and there are enough Chinese PhDs in the area to keep them all busy.

    — the first paragraph is not totally accurate: there’s one shopping center on 355 that has Ethiopian, Persian, Mexican, VietNamese, Chinese, Philippine, even Portuguese store-front restaurants. And a Dunkin Donuts.

    The Italian restaurant that used to be run by a Greek family is now Chinese.

    Has anyone been to Baltimore’s Little Italy lately?

    There used to be a superb German restaurant in Baltimore, near the Inner Harbor. Heavy, heavy decor — statues all over the place, great hasenpfeffer.

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  43. we still have lots of mediocre pizza joints, even as there is also a thriving high-end Italian restaurant business.

    Instead of going after king sized soft drinks, the Michael Bloombergs of the world need to end the horror of deep dish pizza.

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  44. I was surprised by the roaring applause Trump got at points. His tough-guy-talk went over well.

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  45. Poutine joints, ready to go global Real Soon Now.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/eating-poutine/story?id=24969786

    And Quebecois didn’t even need immigrants to perfect french fries, cheese curds and brown gravy. Yuuuum, yum.

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  46. Yeah , no shit there’s only one out of a hundred good Indian restaurants . I can make better Indian food than these street sweepers that come over here and set up shop as cooks with all their f**king kin . They ought to be deported for the shit that they serve . The dried up overcooked abomination they pass off as biryani with two peanuts an a raisin is disgraceful . As a gourmand I’m outraged and I hope that once Trump is elected he will address this burning issue .

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  47. Restaurants? It’s about the people! I want as many Asian chicks in this country as possible and don’t mind Hispanics and/or blacks doing low-skill labor opening up skilled jobs for me and everyone I know. Immigration rules lol…

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  48. More thinking of the place that cooks the ‘Big’ ‘Macs’

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  49. Sailer , someone recently said that the only reason you let my posts get through is to give an example of what is unacceptable . I was offended by that because I know that you would take an add from a Korean massage parlour for a free pedicure so I would appreciate it if you would denounce that slanderous accusation . In return I will post a link to another great recipe . Thank you .

    Your humble servant

    The donut

    Here’s the recipe : http://foodwishes.blogspot.com/2016/03/tartiflette-french-potato-bacon-and.html

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  50. Dead on. The new trend is basic dishes made using only ultra local, sustainable, organic, union whatever ingredients, and mostly those often aren’t any better than what I can make using walmart ingredients. The reason being they’re still cooked by a third world peasant.

    These places literally advertise that everything comes from (for example) within 90 miles of the restaurant. Everything except the staff…

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  51. No, it was the bread, I didn’t dip anything. Maybe it wasn’t naan. It’s been a while.

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  52. I think a lot of it is portions and speed of eating. People sat down and ate their meatloaf and potatoes over an hour or so, so it filled them up more.

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  53. Dorsia still has the greatest sea urchin ceviche…

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  54. OT from The Washington Post:

    Police officer: Trump protesters were ‘the most hateful, evil people I’ve ever seen’

    Bonus: the cop is Black.

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  55. Back in the ’90s and early ’00s, when the Food Network was still at least theoretically devoted to high quality cooking shows and not the reality TV filler they currently air, they used to run English-dubbed reruns of the original Japanese Iron Chef. It was my favorite show on television; it still is my favorite show of all time, even though they stopped running it years ago. Nobody does food culture like the Japanese do food culture. I’ve been an avid home cook ever since I was a little boy, so Iron Chef was to me like the Library of Congress is to a bibliophile. I used to enjoy shopping the Asian markets for the exotic ingredients and reverse-engineering the recipes. But I digress…

    My point is, Japan is a notoriously immigrant-averse country, but the Iron Chefs represented several distinct cooking styles. There was an Iron Chef Japanese, Chinese, French, and (occasionally) Italian. All of them except the Chinese chef were ethnically Japanese, and so were most of the competitors who battled against them within their various cooking styles. In fact, Japan seems to have world-class cooking guilds devoted to various foreign cuisines, certainly to French and Italian.

    It seems many of these chefs had studied abroad and then returned to Japan, while a very small number of foreign master chefs maintain restaurants or schools in the country, keeping everything authentic and up to par. If you’re willing to shell out the big bucks, the French and Italian cuisine you can find in Tokyo will be the literal equal of anything you can get in Paris or Rome, and it will probably be prepared by ethnic Japanese, and it’s all done with virtually no immigration.

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  56. “Speaking of Thai cuisine: here in the Seattle area it’s really hard to find an authentic Thai restaurant. Most customers are Americans, so most restaurants serve Americanized versions of Thai dishes – blah”

    Actually, it’s not that difficult to locate.

    http://blogs.seattletimes.com/allyoucaneat/2014/11/28/so-whats-seattles-best-thai-restaurant/

    Now, Mr. Sailer…

    “But, one thing that strikes me is that Thai restaurants haven’t improved all that much since the 1980s…”

    Usually you have meat on the bones rather than filler. Certainly you are entitled to an uninformed opinion. Perhaps too much on your palate?

    http://www.thedailymeal.com/thai-food-america-s-5-best-thai-restaurants

    “One reason for this is that most of the Thai immigrants working in Thai restaurants don’t really care about cuisine. They care about moving to America to make more money, and working in a Thai restaurant is just something Thais do for the money when they come to America.”

    And you definitively know this HOW?

    “In contrast, a fair fraction of the relatively small numbers of Italians who move to America today are Italian cooking fanatics intent on bringing higher standards to Italian restaurants in America.”



    Usually, here is where you submit evidence how and why Thais are not on the same par in this regard, yet the ingredients are missing. The menu is standard (rhetoric) fare.

    “So, without mass immigration we can still have restaurants that continually improve.”

    Weak sauce. Bland taste. A major dining disappointment. Hopefully you will cook up some better recipes in the future.

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  57. The other big employer of immigrants, and a favorite of SWPLs everywhere; the ethnic grocery store!!!

    Out on the Left Coast, they’re everywhere and every ethnicity. I try to shop them, but they have expensive containers of I don’t know what, or what it tastes like, so I’m not blowing $8 on it. If I had someone from that culture, and they could do some hand holding; tell me what is Chef Boyardee stuff and what is the real deal, then I’d get the wallet out.

    Finally, expensive restaurant meals; if you have lots of disposable income, you can afford it. Go for it. But If you have to watch your pennies, I do, then a meal that is 5 or 6 times more expensive, and maybe 25% better isn’t a deal.

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  58. Steve: no golf course angle here, but the pins are going in in Chicago land!

    A Thai golf course angle would be the links along the runway at Don Muang Airport in Bangkok.

    No food visible, though.

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  59. In Australia, old school red check tablecloth Italian restaurants are dead passe’.

    We have non-Italian hipsters doing Tuscan regional and such, but Enzo and Guido are masquerading as Spaniards, making out OK selling Tapas.

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  60. Thai restaurants in San Francisco have gotten much better if you like the food to taste like it does in Thailand

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  61. People today laugh at the diet of the 50s and 60s and are horrified by how “unhealthy” it was, and yet obesity was far less common back then.

    Quite a few of the men I knew of WW2 vintage died in their 50s. They may not have been excessively fat, but they sure weren’t healthy.

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  62. The Globocrud continues to spread: doo rags, incense, air fresheners, rolling papers, bongs, pipes, phone cards. t shirts, and phone chargers.

    At least back where I grew up in the old days, the Lebanese and Italians just bootlegged whisky and rented jukeboxes and vending machines.

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  63. I find that run-of-the-mill cheap Thai food in white areas is still pretty close to Thai food in Thailand with the main exception is that in flyover America Thai places tend to have random cheap Chinese food items like orange chicken on the menu.

    But basil chicken, pad thai, shrimp and pork spring rolls, tom yum soup, green curry… these are all basically the same as in Thailand as a typical Thai place here.

    If you want to dial up the authenticity of the meal at your local Thai place, order one of the above items and try squid or shrimp entree. Avoid beef and salmon, which taste good with Thai spices to be sure, but are not much consumed in thailand. They also don’t eat chicken breast by itself, you’d never see just white meat in a stir fry.

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  64. 86 Oscar winner, best short documentary. More of these Italians would be none short of a Godsend.

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  65. In either case, no wonder the Scots were driven to single malts!

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  66. Donut, I tried your last recipe, and it was a hit. I’ll give this one a shot as well.

    That said, this is the last time I’ll pollute iSteve commentary with talk of recipes.

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  67. Domino’s calls it Brooklyn style. Here is how their website describes it…

    Every individual Brooklyn Style pizza is cut into 6 over-sized triangles so that you can fold each slice, and eat it like a true Brooklyn-native.

    No, that is not The Onion.

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  68. To say nothing of Scottish Highlander restaurants.

    We could use a few more lutefisk joints, too.

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  69. I have to believe Thai food in Thai town is much better than the 1980s

    Much like Italian food Japanese food is way better and more authentic now and nuanced now. My suburb has so many Japanese restaurants there are ones that specialize in the Japanese version of Chinese food and the Japanese version of western food. We have Italian restaurants in SF now that only do food from Rome or Piedmont or Sardinia.

    I would argue that in big diverse cities all ethnic food is way better now because of immigration but also globalization and travel. Maybe disposable income in some areas has something to do with it too.

    Tangent but American food has gotten way better too wouldn’t you say?

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  70. Tobacco.

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  71. Nothing beats Schezuan dumplings at Mr Chow’s

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  72. Likely travel to the U.S. little know fact that what you are thinking of as a burrito was invented in SF and is not eaten in Mexico. I’m sure the burrito in London is not good though

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  73. The best French meal I have eaten was in Kyoto.

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  74. Baskets up!

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  75. The Devil’s Advocate argument would be that to create a market for the high-end version of a national cuisine you first need a sufficiently large pool of people becoming acquainted with its standard, unadorned fare.

    Georgian (the country) cuisine is very good, a unique blend of Levantine and spicier flavors from Central Asia, but there will never be any top rate Georgian restaurants in the US simply because there aren’t that many Georgians to kickstart it.

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  76. Anonymous
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    Steve thinks he’s too good for the Olive Garden with the rest of us peons.

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  77. “I hope Iraqis have good cuisine” was a cry of consolation I heard in early 2003 when it was realized that the Iraq war would not be averted. But I am not aware of Iraqi restaurants.

    Korean, Vietnamese and Thai restaurants were started by Korean and Vietnam wars’ “refugees”.

    Interest in pizza was brought by American GI’s from WW II Italy. However there was no interest in Japanese cuisine after WW II. Japanese were too subhuman to Americans, I guess. Gastronomic Japanese invasion came on the wake of technological invasion in 1980′s. The demise of American car industry and the rise of sushi culture.

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  78. Does it actually hyphenate “Brooklyn-native”? Why?

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  79. WWII brought Tiki culture to SoCal: rum drinks with umbrellas in them, luaus, flaming torches.

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  80. This comment thread reminds me that complaining about American and “Americanized” food is one of the favorite passtimes of the domestic snobigentsia. It’s only slightly less annoying than similar criticism from Eurosnobs. I guess that’s an argument for immigration restriction. Pass the red sauce, please.

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  81. Was it La Part Dieu? http://bellecour.co.jp That place has pretty good food and wine, but the serving cart of imported cheeses at the end blows away anything else I’ve anywhere in the world. (Of course, I’ve never been to France…) It was fantastic!

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  82. After WWII, Japan was in such a state of devastation that there were many people living in the streets and going hungry. I suspect the GIs who were stationed in Japan ate what the army made for them and were never really exposed to Japanese cuisine before they started getting deactivated and sent back to the US.

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  83. The Devil’s Advocate argument would be that to create a market for the high-end version of a national cuisine you first need a sufficiently large pool of people becoming acquainted with its standard, unadorned fare.

    Yeah. Back in this comment on March 2, I suggested mass immigration hasn’t improved restaurant food because good restaurants are only started by the odd random immigrant… you could import 50,000 Mexican chefs without importing one that starts a decent Mexican restaurant. But of course you are right–if someone does start a good Mexican restaurant, why? To serve Mexicans maybe.

    But I also suggested the improvement in ethnic food in the US was likely a result of increased travel and trade on the part of white Americans. I still think this is what accounts for the interest in authentic ethnic food that has driven good ethnic restaurants…

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  84. That’s interesting, ’cause I have never been to a Thai restaurant in the US that even uses tamarind, never mind balancing the flavors authentically. Usually, everything is too sweet and the fish sauce is either too little or too low quality.

    It’s the same in Japan–there is one good Thai restaurant where I live, but most are really sweet.

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  85. Yes

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  86. The key here is

    If you’re willing to shell out the big bucks,

    If not, the ethnic food in Japan is pretty bland and sweet compared to its home country’s version.

    I hear that in Singapore, there is a French restaurant that flies in baguettes from Paris every day. Famously, baking in Asia is very poor. Kyoto is the capital of bread in Japan, but the best bakery I have found is run by a Frenchman who employees other French in his bakery.

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  87. that nails it, hipsters are sellouts. recent and constant immigration ensures a constant supply of servile first generation servants when they’re older, for the young and cash-strapped student first generation immigrant self-exploitation cares for affordable culinary variety. take away dim sum burrito first, high-end cuisine later, the fob nanny will look after the kids.

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  88. it’s just that the most significant improvement was done by a white guy.

    Aha!!

    Just as I predicted here: http://www.unz.com/isteve/rhetorical-momentum-vs-diminishing-marginal-utility/#comment-1342794

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  89. My local pizza joint makes Italian fare light years better than the Olive Garden. Steve is not alone in thinking so.

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  90. I don’t have anything against Olive Garden. The last time I ate at one was in 2011 when I drove nonstop from L.A. to Grand Junction, Colorado and treated myself to going to Olive Garden instead of Wendy’s. It was very nice.

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  91. Whereas Don the Beachcomber’s and Trader Vic’s tiki restaurants were huge in the postwar era.

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  92. Is Georgian cuisine all that different from Armenian cuisine? I’d imagine not, at least to Western tastes. And yet the significant Armenian population in Southern California hasn’t spawned a chain of restaurants radiating out from SoCal popularizing Armenian foods.

    In any event, hasn’t there been a sort of homogenization of cuisines from across the former Ottoman Empire?

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  93. Monday Assorted Links | Marginal Counterrevolution
    says:
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    […] 2. Improving American human capital via small-scale skilled immigration (Sailer) […]

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  94. Restaurants are mainly disappointing. Grow as much as your own food as you can, or buy local, and cook it at home. Read Angelo Pelligrini’s “The Food Lover’s Garden” and “the Unprejudiced Palate” http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00A1OYEQG/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?ie=UTF8&btkr=1>
    Dr. Pelligrini is a legend in Seattle. English professor at U of WA who emigrated from Italy to rural WA state as a child, planted every inch of his Seattle city lot to food crops and cooked to amaze all. He’s gone, but his books survive.

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  95. I would maintain that we owe a collective gratitude to hillbilly sergeants and CPOs who married Vietnamese, Thai, and Korean girls and brought them back to the states. Many times I’ve eaten in good little Asian joints near military installments where mama was back in the kitchen, NCO [ret.] was circulating among the customers and running the register, while kids waited tables.

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  96. All the hospitals I’ve worked in had a drawer full of takeout menus . Most of the American owned places and even the ones owned by the Dotheads might bring one menu with the order . The .. what would be the correct term ? G**ks , ch**ks , sl**t eyes , sl**es , W*gs ? I don’t know , would bring at least 10 – 15 menus with the order . After a time the only menus in the drawer were the Chinese menus . I , in my own ineffective attempt at ethnic cleansing would throw all the Chinese menus into the trash but in the two to three days I was off they would out breed the native stock and again there would be only Chinese menus in the drawer .
    So will we let these furriners conquer us , not with their f**king high math scores or their sharper business practices but just by out breeding us . Damn white boy are you telling me you can’t outf**k , out breed our opponents They are no better or smarter than us as a group . Despite the all the nonsense about IQ’s and who has created what ? Not the Negro whose greatest achievement has been the thatched hut and selling their “brothers” into slavery (and a better life) , nor the Chinamen , a race of shrewd grasping peasants , like the Scots , who as your current hero wants to do , built a wall to keep the illegal immigrants out . The “Muslims , oh , how we hear about the Muslim contribution to civilization from the denutted race traitors at the BBC , yeah , the Umayyad Caliphate in Spain , what a glorious Golden Age and opportunity for the poor benighted savages of Europe to absorb… what ? The learning of the classical Greeks? Again White men .Which a few perceptive individuals in the swamp of Islamic , I don’t know , would you call it thought ? Haha or “philosophy” LOL , had the sense to preserve and pass on . The only original brilliant thinker in that otherwise vast and dead end cesspool of Islamic superstition was Al-Ghazali .

    And who but a White man and white woman could could create this flawless gem of a performance ? Transform this mundane sordid story into art ?

    The whole world feeds off the works and creations of the white man , and now the Untermensch think that they can kill us off and do what ? Push on into the “New Frontier” ?

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  97. I like drinking in offshore Chinese restaurants where I can really Taiwan on.

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  98. Hey Sailer have you done some bad things sweety ? well I feel sick about this but we do what we have to do , just because we don’t want to do something doesn’t mean it can’t be done . Right ? Actually I don’t feel sick about it at all .

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  99. I buy the discount meat at Vallarta’s in Southern California so I somewhat regret the fancy meals of my younger years (I loved Trattoria Grappolo in Santa Ynez so much). To be truthful, though, I would eat ham salad sandwiches for the rest of my life if I could afford to support a family without going on welfare.

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  100. Perhaps the best Mexican chef in America is Rick Bayless and he is white.

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  101. Ever eat at Bahooka in Rosemead, on Rosemead Blvd? The place with the 3″ naval gun out front?

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  102. I wonder how many Unz readers avoid ethnic restaurants on principle. As an immigration restrictionist I rarely go to Asian restaurants as I don’t believe in supporting businesses that hire illegals and don’t pay minimum wage (which probably applies to most of the low end ones).

    Maybe if Trump wins the election, Sessions could pass legislation making sure the government vetted restaurants and made them carry stickers indicating they don’t employ illegal workers.

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  103. Good enough Matt , I won’t pollute the site with anymore recipes . You have the link to Food Wishes and you can follow it to culinary heaven . Make a god of your stomach and sacrifice at least twice a week .

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  104. Far from an expert on Armenian (and for that matter Georgian) cuisine, but I think they are very substantially different.

    Armenian cuisine is pretty much just Levantine/Turkish food with not a lot of things very specific to it. I suspect that many Armenians in the LA area just market it as generic Levantine/Middle Eastern. At least that was my n=1 observation when I dined at an Armenian place (it was obvious from the owners’ surnames and their prominent observation of the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide which just happened to be happening at that time).

    In contrast, Georgian cuisine is a true fusion of Levantine, Anatolian, East European and Central Asian, with spices playing an important role from adzhika (a sort of Caucasian salsa) to the hot beef soup harcho which have no obvious neighboring analogs and just and just plain idiosyncratic dishes like pkhali that blend beets and walnuts that I can’t really think of equivalents for from anywhere else. There is a reason that Georgian food became the favorite cuisine of the Soviet elites and I doubt it was all just down to Stalin.

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  105. Far from an expert on Armenian (and for that matter Georgian) cuisine, but I think they are very substantially different.

    Armenian cuisine is pretty much just Levantine/Turkish food with not a lot of things very specific to it. I suspect that many Armenians in the LA area just market it as generic Levantine/Middle Eastern. At least that was my n=1 observation when I dined at an Armenian place (it was obvious from the owners’ surnames and their prominent observation of the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide which happened to be happening at that time).

    In contrast, Georgian cuisine is a true fusion of Levantine, Anatolian, East European and Central Asian, with spices playing an important role from adzhika (a sort of Caucasian salsa) to the hot beef soup harcho, none of which have any obvious neighboring analogs. Moreover, they have many plain idiosyncratic dishes like pkhali that blend beets and walnuts that seem to be entirely original and specific to Georgia. There is a reason that Georgian food became the dominant cuisine of the Soviet elites and I doubt it was all just down to Stalin.

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  106. Sailer , someone recently said that the only reason you let my posts get through is to give an example of what is unacceptable

    Lemme guess… you spell it donut rather than doughnut because you put the ugh in the text.

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  107. Many people in flyover country have never even had NY style pizza.

    That’s because we’ve discovered Neapolitan woodfire, and now it’s New York’s turn to be “flyover country”.

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  108. However there was no interest in Japanese cuisine after WW II.

    Don’t be silly. Teriyaki and sukiyaki were so well known that in 1963, the latter’s name was slapped on a hit song that had nothing to do with it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C35DrtPlUbc

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  109. Anonymous
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    I like the not very subtle signalling here: “I haven’t eaten at the Olive Garden with the rest of you losers in 5 years! And I only ate there because I was exhausted from driving non-stop for hours and it was the only choice next to Wendy’s at the rest stop! All you losers probably eat there as a special treat or to celebrate some occasion! I only eat at places with real Italian chefs!”

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  110. Immigrants from Thailand, for example, introduced the now ubiquitous Thai restaurants.

    Not very many. The Census Bureau shows 144,405 Thai speakers in the US in 2007:

    https://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/acs-12.pdf

    There are 240 speakers of Spanish for every speaker of Thai. Chinese, French, Tagalog, Vietnamese, German, and Korean each have more than a million.

    It didn’t take that many Thais to do this.

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  111. A traditional trattoria, on the other hand, is small, family-run, assiduously local, inexpensive and features exceptional ingredients . . . .

    Another grammatical atrocity from the NYT.

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  112. Many people in flyover country have never even had NY style pizza.

    Many people in New York have never had it. I lived in Manhattan for a year, and I have no idea what it is.

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  113. Quite a few of the men I knew of WW2 vintage died in their 50s. They may not have been excessively fat, but they sure weren’t healthy.

    Well, a lot of them died of lung cancer, and most of the rest from heart attacks or strokes.

    Healthier diets have helped lower death rates from cardiovascular disease, but the biggest advances have been effective control of blood pressure, cholesterol-lowering drugs and much better treatment for heart attacks when they do happen.

    My point was that we claim to eat healthier diets today than Americans of, say, 1960, but there are more fat people than ever. That can’t be good for us. So many young people are obese these days. How healthy will they be when they hit 55 or so?

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  114. No, I would normally eat a Wendy’s salad, which is quite good. Olive Garden was a special reward for making good time.

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  115. Orange County is similar to Seattle in that we can get real Asian cooking (Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and even Japanese) in restaurants where 80% of the customers are of that nationality

    Agree with you on Thai, though-most customers are Americans. You are now starting to see Vietnamese and Korean break out of the ethnic neighborhoods into the more affluent parts of the county (there is now pho in south OC and Korean BBQ is now going south of Irvine, where the best Chinese is)

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  116. Many people in New York have never had it. I lived in Manhattan for a year, and I have no idea what it is.

    Well, I think I do now. My wife dragged me to a place called Grimaldi’s, and it was awful. The pizza was like a large circular Saltine with a few drips of sauce and dribbles of cheese on it.

    Now, St. Mark’s Pizza at 8th and 3rd was good, but it was apparently not the New York style.

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  117. It would be great if it were so, but regrettably reports of Sailer’s wealth have been greatly exaggerated.

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  118. The list of “best” Thai restaurants in Seattle you posted was compiled by an American. I was speaking of authentic Thai restaurants, which is not the same.

    If you want to trust an American to give you a list of “best” Thai restaurants, go for it. Just don’t try to claim the food is authentic. But if you want to find out what authentic Thai cuisine is like, you have to ask Thais or someone who’s spent enough time there to become an expert (good luck with the latter).

    I have talked to many Thais here, and some of those people constantly search for authentic Thai food (meaning, they talk to other Thais and drive around and try new restaurants all the time, and have the means to do it). The only place I’ve heard of and eaten in, from the Seattle Times list you sent, is Bai Tong. It’s not bad, just not very authentic. Some of the dishes are made too sweet and with ingredients you’d never find in Thailand, but what does your average dumb farang know?

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  119. Donut, feel free to email me your culinary hits at ex_machina@live.com at your discretion. I do love good food.

    Now, per this subject, I ask: Is there any justification for immigration based upon cuisine given the ubiquity of authentic recipes online and global trade of any and all ingredients? I mean, does it really take a Thai to make an authentic Thai dish–or is merely knowing how to make it sufficient? I can’t imagine cooking is not wholly a “social construct” and therefore perfectly transferable from one person to the next regardless of race (but respective of intellect/talent obviously).

    Yes, certainly fresh ingredients are superior to those frozen and shipped across the globe, but this still has nothing to do with human races and everything to do with proximity to ingredients.

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  120. Ethnic food is a stupid excuse for immigration of non whites.

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  121. There’s a Thai place in Hackensack (Bangkok Garden, not the other one) where they ask you to pick a spiciness level on a scale from 1-to-10. I think 5 is as high as I’ve gone and it’s pretty spicy.

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  122. Is there any justification for immigration based upon cuisine given the ubiquity of authentic recipes online and global trade of any and all ingredients? I mean, does it really take a Thai to make an authentic Thai dish–or is merely knowing how to make it sufficient?

    IMO, there is no justification for mass immigration based upon cuisine. I’m open to being convinced that there is no justification for immigration at all based on cuisine.

    Having said that, just knowing how to make a foreign dish is not sufficient. You also have to know how it’s supposed to taste, look, and feel. And that comes from experience and immersion accumulated over time. Not knowing how a dish is supposed to taste is not being able to do your own quality control, even if you manage to follow every single step in the recipe.

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  123. WTF Sailer ? Do you know how long I had to hunt and peck on my keyboard for that shit ? I appreciate your not posting my more lunatic rants , but shit man, was it that out of line ? You pass a lot of my shit and I thank you for it and I thank you again for what you don’t let go by . I made a living all my life working with my back not like the erudite educated commenters that mostly populate your site here . The job I did regularly in order to earn money sucked but I’ve seen such sublime beauty in this world as well as the horrid ends that humans can come to and a lot that’s in between . I’ve learned that humans can have less love for their offspring than a serpent and that a stranger can casually offer you salvation .The only work I ever did I did I under duress , what else could I do , who wants to be a laborer , a field hand . I pretended that god had a knife at my throat to push me this way and that , but that was BS . I alone brought myself to this sad end .

    I suppose this Negro had some s9ort of work ethic ?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xaq0t9OQOd8

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  124. “I like drinking in offshore Chinese restaurants where I can really Taiwan on.”
    You can Thangk Kai-shek.

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  125. Personally, I don’t spend much money at restaurants. I don’t have the money or a sophisticated enough palate to make it worth my while. On the other hand, I realize that other people do enjoy both advantages.

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  126. In Australia, most Italian restaurants are staffed by Chinese if not owned by Chinese. I guess this is vibrancy^2

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  127. Apparently there was a huge explosion at Brussels Airport. It’s still not on Drudge.

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  128. I used to live acoss the street from that dump. Very trendy, food ok, but aside from a successful business model for immigrant italians and a place for models and posers to be seen, nothing special.

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  129. “and the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles — the scene of Nicole Brown Simpson’s last meal”

    Seems like an unnecessary and morbid aside for an article about Italian restaurants.

    What’s kind of ironic about the growth in high end trattorias, is that between them and the chain Italian places, they are crowding out the red sauce restaurants. And the red sauce restaurants represent an authentic cuisine – that developed by the very large south Italian presence in the United States in the late 19th/early 20th century. And although I love good Italian food, good Italian-American food is even better.

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  130. Food has gotten better due to technology. Remember food before the Internet, and GPS maps, and smartphones, and Netflix? Also, inventory, shipping, and supply chain management have made stocking more varied food practical. Even materials: most grocery stores now sell pre-washed salad and veggies in breathable plastic bags that wasn’t possible not to long ago.

    It’s not just ethnic food, all food has gotten much better. Grocery stores are far better than they used to be. Fast casual dining is better, high end food is better, everything about food is great.

    I don’t think anyone feels food is important enough to immigration. No one seriously wants more immigrants for the food. But I love, Chinatowns for example, where it feels like I’m in China and I get lots of good exotic food for reasonable prices.

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  131. >>> that were both TV actors in Bangkok and are way more cultured and sophisticated than your average Thai

    “actors are cattle” – Alfred Hitchcock

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  132. Technology transfer is wonderful. From consumer electronics to jet engines, some of the poorest countries in the world can now produce some of the most highly sophisticated products.
    Why, just yesterday I saw such an example: a Thai cook book. In my hands I held a compendium of such transfer, revealing to its reader the highly complex and heretofore secret formulae to produce delectable Thai cuisine. Imagine, a step-by-step instruction guide! But, in my good and righteous heart, I knew that no matter how faithfully I executed the instructions it would never be authentic Thai food unless prepared by a Thai, even if the only line he ever worked on was in a tire factory. I mean, a jet engine built in Thailand wouldn’t be a real jet engine, would it? It just wouldn’t be authentic.

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  133. Most Vietnamese joints in the US are run by the Cantonese speaking diaspora Han Chinese who got expelled in the ethnic cleansing in 1975.

    Also, baking in Asia generally sucks but the Vietnamese can bake, see Bahn Mi sandwiches. Great bread requires steam ovens and to have it last more than an hour the air must be relatively low humidity. Too humid means the crust gets soggy.

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  134. vinteuil >> We obviously need more Italian immigrants, and fewer Asians & Latinos

    Much of SE Asian migration is imported wives of white guys.

    You build an Italiana that’s as enticing to wife-up as a Thai or a Filipina, you’ll get your Italian immigration.

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  135. ben tillman >> I lived in Manhattan for a year, and I have no idea

    another out-of-town tourist.

    probably doesn’t know which bridge out of Manhattan doesn’t charge a toll. And which bridge brings drinking water in.

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  136. “So, without mass immigration we can still have restaurants that continually improve”

    The ethnic restaurant argument isn’t actually about chefs, it’s really about clientele, even though it’s not explicitly laid out. Italian food is mainstream enough that Italian restaurants don’t rely on an Italian clientele to survive. But many ethnic restaurants overwhelmingly cater to a diaspora.

    The basic idea is that people like easy access to a lot of stuff for which they’re not the primary clientele. So, for example, you may like having a nice Barnes & Noble nearby even though you purchase mostly on Amazon and B&N would go out of business if most people were like you. Or you may like having a ballet theater in town or a host of other things which stay in business mainly because of customers not like you.

    Of course, the question is what price are you willing to pay for it? But this applies to all kinds of people, not just immigrants. New Yorkers may be ambivalent about bankers and San Francisco about techies.

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  137. “My point is, Japan is a notoriously immigrant-averse country, but the Iron Chefs represented several distinct cooking styles.”

    America is not Japan. Authentic cuisine is alive and kicking in the States; one can find a restaurant in their community for good eats, or take a cooking class to learn how to prepare ethnic dishes.

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  138. “The list of “best” Thai restaurants in Seattle you posted was compiled by an American.”

    So what if the author was an American, that person presented restaurants that served authentic Thai food.

    “Just don’t try to claim the food is authentic.”

    Today’s restaurants comprehend that they need to be broad based. They offer traditional fare or a blend.

    “It’s not bad, just not very authentic. Some of the dishes are made too sweet and with ingredients you’d never find in Thailand, but what does your average dumb farang know?”

    SOME of the food may not be authentic, but there are other menu items which fits the description to a T.

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  139. Apparently there was a huge explosion at Brussels Airport. It’s still not on Drudge.

    If it wasn’t in the kitchen, it’s OT.

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  140. Hate to break the news to you buddy, but NYC has had Neapolitan woodfire pizza made by real Neapolitans for many decades. Even the bricks for the ovens were flown in from Italy. I eat at one every Friday with my family and have been doing so for years. I say this as a Neapolitan American.
    There’s nothing wrong with flyover country, but New York will never take a back seat to anyone when it comes to cuisine, despite the ridiculous explosion in hipsterish foodie nonsense that has proliferated in NYC for the past 10 years, including artisanal donuts, cupcakes and ice cream.

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  141. I was in Budapest a few weeks ago and noticed a large number of ethnic restaurants. Including a lot of taquerias, an excellent cafe selling bagels, French restaurants, Sushi restaurants, etc. And of course Hungary does not have a lot of immigrants – most of these places are run by Hungarians who studied overseas, liked the food, and came back and opened a business. Somehow Hungary has managed to benefit from ethnic diversity without actually importing many ethnics.

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  142. People are confusing New York style pizza with traditional Neapolitan pizza. Though related, they are different things.
    There are actual standards in Italy for what constitutes pizza margherita, eaten with knife and fork. New York style pizza, a uniquely American invention created by immigrants from Italy a century ago, is very different.
    A New York style slice has thin crust with plentiful amounts of industrial strength mozzarella, whereas pizza margherita has exacting standards with high quality ingredients and is a thing of beauty when prepared and served properly.

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  143. Most Russian restaurants I have been to in the US usually offer a few Georgian dishes like kharcho or chicken tabaka, but it is never up to the standards of real Georgian fare.

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  144. There are countless Indians, but any time I asked an Indian coworker to recommend a good Indian restaurant, I was told “there aren’t any”.

    India does not have a traditional restaurant culture (unlike China and Japan but actually similar to the US pre-WWII). The only time you would eat out would be if you were traveling in another city (in Indian English, “Hotel” can mean “Restaurant”). Otherwise your wife/mother would cook every meal for you, including a hot lunch even if you worked downtown. In big Indian cities, there is an amazing system of “tiffinwallahs” – these are guys whose job it is to collect hot lunches from housewives in the suburbs and rush them by handcart and train to their husbands working downtown. Even more amazingly, the tiffinwallahs are usually illiterate but each has a system of markings so that he can associate each otherwise identical tiffin (lunchbox) with the name and address of its owner at both ends.

    So in the Indian mind, good food means “the food that your wife/mother cooks for you” and restaurant food is something that you eat when you have no other choice. Even if it is objectively good, it doesn’t taste like the way your mom would make it so it is therefore not really good. If you are a strict vegetarian, eating out is actually a source of anxiety and not pleasure because you are always worried whether the food you are eating is really strictly veg. and will not ruin your next life.

    All of this is changing but that was the traditional way of thinking.

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  145. While there is something wonderfully satisfying about a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, fundamentally Italian-American cuisine is a sort of simplified pidgin cuisine (the way Spanglish is a pidgin language) formed out of lack of access to authentic ingredients. In the early 20th century US, you couldn’t get real olive oil (or else it was too expensive for a poor immigrant) so you substituted cheap Mazola, made from abundant American corn. You couldn’t get fresh basil or fresh mushrooms or other typical Italian sauce ingredients at the grocery store, but you could get canned tomatoes. You couldn’t get authentic (water) buffalo mozzarella but you could get “mozzarella” made from American cow’s milk (and California “Chianti” and “Parmesan” , etc. none of which were as good as the real thing) On the other hand, there were some upsides to America – meat was incredibly cheap compared to Italy, where you might put a little bit of ground meat into your Bolognese sauce but not great big lumps of it.

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  146. anonymous
    says:
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    The cooks are all Mexican no matter the alleged ethnicity of the restaurant be it Italian, Indian, American, Greek, even at Thai and Chinese ones believe it or not. Mexicans are very flexible.

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  147. Anonymous
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    The woodfire brick oven pizza thing was trendy in the Northeast like back in the late 90s.

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  148. While the idea of businesses, particularly restaurants, responding efficiently to market demand is a nice idea the reality does not support that.

    What happens in real life is that restaurants slap out whatever their owner thinks makes sense and they either survive or they don’t. Hugely mediocre places stay open for incredibly long periods of time because they cover the rent.

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  149. Anonymous
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    Presumably you mean the Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn by the Brooklyn Bridge. I love that place, although it is overhyped and overpriced now. It’s brick oven and more Italian style. St. Mark’s on 3rd ave is NY style pizza. They’re both great. Most people in flyover country have not had this kind of pizza. The pizza they eat from the franchises like Domino’s, Pizza Hut, etc., really shouldn’t even be called pizza.

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  150. Naan is not spicy in any way. It is made from flour and water.

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  151. This is one thing I agree with you on 100%. The Thai restaurants (in LA at least) are bad. What I believe to be the best restaurant in the world is Mozza which nominally has ownership from famous Italian chefs but is actually owned and run by Nancy Silverton (who is Jewish).

    Good food just needs people that love the cuisine. The article above restates the myth that the only possible way to make regional food is to be of that race.

    If you really don’t have the money to eat out let me know I will take you to Mozza my treat. It would be sad to live so close to such good food and never go there. Serious offer let me know and I will send you a real email address.

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  152. So Steve says, “But, one thing that strikes me is that Thai restaurants haven’t improved all that much since the 1980s…”

    And then spergy wet blanket Corvinus responds to that by posting a link to the Five Best Thai Restaurants in America, which are found in New York, LA (two), Las Vegas and Portland (the Portland one being run by a white guy).

    Corvinus considers it a devastating response that of the thousands of dismal Thai restaurants infesting the land, since five of them in major urban food centers are good, well that settles that! Steve has been CORRECTED!

    Really, is this how idiots think? It’s fascinating.

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