How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'What makes a restaurant authentic?'

Photo by cattoo/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Should it matter if Cajun food is prepared by a chef from Iran, sushi by a chef from Mexico?

In a land where your sushi chef might be from Mexico, they guy who makes your pizza might be from El Salvador, and the owner of your favorite Cajun joint might be from Iran, how relevant is "authenticity" to a restaurant if the food is good? And what constitutes authenticity, anyway?

Elahe Izadi of WAMU's DCentric blog in Washington, D.C. poses these questions in an interesting post today, talking to the chefs and patrons of eateries operated by people whose ethnicity is different from that of the cuisine served.

Among those she interviews is Bardia Ferdowski, an Iranian immigrant who moved to Louisiana, working in Cajun restaurants and eventually opening his own Cajun kitchen in D.C. She also talks to Jose De Velasquez, an immigrant from El Salvador whose pizzeria, the Italian-sounding Moroni & Brothers, also serves Salvadoran and Mexican food. From the piece:

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A fond farewell to a vestige of Latino Silver Lake

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Adios, Restaurante y Pupuseria - the empty storefront on February 13, 2011

I was driving through Silver Lake the other day when I saw something I'd expected to see eventually, but hoped I wouldn't: an empty storefront at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Hyperion Avenue where a tiny Salvadoran pupuseria had stood for years, tucked between an upscale gelateria and a dentist office.

It was a little closet of a place, marked only with an awning reading "Restaurante y Pupuseria," which in recent years had been updated from a lighter color to a hipper black, perhaps to blend in with the adjacent gelateria's dark color scheme. Its passing seems to have gone largely unnoticed. Searching for an obituary of some kind, I found only a mention in Urban Spoon, which posted a simple notice advising "Closed: Pupuseria." I called the dentist's office next door and they told me that it closed about a month ago, and that the space is being prepared for another restaurant. A German place, they thought.

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