Making Old-World Italian New

November 2017

In today’s foodservice landscape, we see obscure ethnic ingredients trending, lighter fare for health-conscious diners and a desire for food served faster than ever. It’s easy to see how classic American-Italian dishes, such as lasagna, beef braciola, handmade spaghetti and meatballs or pizza, may not fit in. On the contrary, many chefs are taking Italian dishes to fun new places and helping diners see old-world dishes in an interesting new light.

According to Grub Street, Italian food is poised to be the next big fast-casual trend. That could be because it’s so easy to customize. Create-your-own pizza and pasta joints are popping up across the nation. Some examples include Blaze Pizza, headquartered in Pasadena, California, and Pizzeria Locale, a Chipotle-backed business venture.

Pizza and pasta both utilize an ingredient that is typically low cost: wheat. This allows for a larger profit margin. In addition, it gives operators more opportunities to incorporate premium ingredients or a greater number of ingredients into a dish without inducing sticker shock for diners. Sardella in St. Louis is serving an extra-fancy agnolotti dish made with beef brisket cooked in lobster broth and seasoned with Old Bay and hot sauce.

  • Bring a medley of exquisite flavors to the menu with this overstuffed Lasagna di Carnevale featuring layers of rich cheeses, turkey meatballs, ripe tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, spinach and more.

Making a twist on a traditional Italian dish can be as simple as swapping out a single ingredient. Adding a new flavor or texture increases interest for diners while maintaining the approachability and comfort-food feeling people love about Italian foods. Regional Italian restaurant Le Farfalle of Charleston, South Carolina, features a cacio e pepe dish made with buckwheat spaghetti instead of traditional semolina pasta.

  • Swap beef meatballs for turkey to give customers a slightly different flavor with a natural health halo for those seeking better-for-you options. These Brooklyn-Style Turkey Meatballs make a delicious appetizer or addition to pasta dishes.

Use these tips to reenergize your Italian cuisine, and be sure to visit our Culinary Center for more Italian-inspired recipe inspiration.


Crowley, Chris. Is Italian Food the Next Frontier of Fast-Casual Eating?, Grub Street, September 2017.

Glazer, Fern. Chefs play with Italian classics, Nation’s Restaurant News, September 2017.

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