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.

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Five Valentine meals to share with your amor

Photo by jonathanb1989/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Their romantic dinner might taste like plastic - better to share some shabu shabu or an Ethiopian stew.

Photo by jonathanb1989/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Their romantic dinner might taste like plastic - better to share some shabu shabu or an Ethiopian stew.

Photo by jonathanb1989/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Their romantic dinner might taste like plastic - better to share some shabu shabu or an Ethiopian stew.

Photo by jonathanb1989/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Their romantic dinner might taste like plastic - better to share some shabu shabu or an Ethiopian stew.


Forget momentarily about chocolate, oysters and the rest of the usual food suggestions that accompany Valentine’s Day, about aphrodisiacs and expensive dinners. As a favor to lovestruck foodies in the Los Angeles area, a few colleagues and I recently came up with an unscientific but well-loved list of some of the best date-friendly offerings to come out of our immigrant enclaves.

Five favorites:

Ethiopian There’s something very intimate about sharing a meal from the same dish, eaten with your hands. The spongy injera bread serves as a both plate and utensil with which to scoop up savory stews, called wot, and other dishes, making the meal a tactile experience. The food itself is fragrant, seasoned with garlic, ginger and other spices.

One place to find it: Nyala at 1076 South Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 936-5918

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