How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Growing up Persian in an Italian restaurant

Photo by stopthegears/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Multi-American's sister blog DCentric in Washington, D.C. has been taking on the topic of food authenticity, in particular whether ethnic food that's prepared and served by chefs and proprietors of an ethnicity different from that of the cuisine is sufficiently "authentic." Last week, blogger Elahe Izadi profiled a couple of these restaurateurs, a Salvadoran immigrant who operates a pizzeria and an Iranian immigrant who runs a Cajun restaurant.

In a first-person piece yesterday, Izadi explained her connection: She's the child of an Iranian immigrant father who worked in Italian restaurants, eventually developed his own sauce recipe, and opened his own restaurant serving Italian food. From the post:

Growing up, many people assumed we were Italian, particularly since there weren’t many Iranians in our fairly homogenous community. Sometimes we’d joke that my grandmother was part-Italian, or that my father had flown over Italy and that counts for something. Some customers, among them Italians, would tell us how the food reminded them of restaurants in Little Italy or Italy itself.

In our home, my mother’s Persian cooking reigned supreme. But sometimes we’d eat white pizza and eggplant parmigiana from our restaurant, which was also home cooking. At large family get-togethers, we served traditional Persian dishes alongside baked ziti.


Today, Elahe considers a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs with her father's sauce as much of her family's culinary tradition as Persian food. The series continues today, with readers' thoughts on what makes for an authentic meal, and if who prepares it makes a difference.
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