We often like to think we’re already well-acquainted with Italian culture when we visit Italy, but as the locals often like to remind us, we’re not.
One of those points of contention is a popular “Italian” dish: spaghetti bolognese.
Order a plate of spaghetti bolognese in Italy, though, and what you’re likely to get is an eye-roll from the waiter. And nowhere moreso than in the historic northern city of Bologna, where the mayor is on a furious crusade to stop people thinking that’s where spaghetti bolognese came from — because they’re completely wrong.
“Spaghetti bolognese doesn’t actually exist, yet it’s famous the world over,” Bologna mayor Virginio Merola told Italian radio broadcaster RAI.
“What we’d prefer the world to know is that Bologna invented tagliatelle, tortellini and lasagne.”
The authentic Italian dish that most closely resembles spaghetti bolognese is tagliatelle al ragù — flat ribbons of handmade egg pasta served in a very, very slow-cooked sauce of beef, vegetables, tomatoes and wine.
Tagliatelle al ragù comes from the Emilia-Romagna region, of which Bologna is the capital. But spaghetti does not.
Merola is now trying to expose the “fake news” of the abominable spaghetti bolognese through a social media campaign.
“Dear residents, I am collecting photos of spaghetti Bolognese from around the world (speaking of fake news),” he tweeted last month. “This one is from London, please send me yours,” added, along with a photo of a restaurant chalkboard advertising the “specialty of the house.”
He’s since received dozens of replies from people tweeting bizarre versions of spaghetti bolognese they’ve seen around the world, including what appeared to be squeezable sachets of instant sauce in Denmark.
“I don’t know what kind of crap is in it,” they commented, according to Italy’s The Local.
The mayor said he would use the submitted images to create an exhibit for Bologna’s new theme park FICO Eataly World, which will be the largest food theme park in the world.
He told The Telegraph while tourists streamed into Bologna to sample the world-class food, they’d be out of luck trying to order spaghetti bolognese.
“It is strange to be famous all over the world for a dish that isn’t ours,” Merola said.
“Of course we are happy that it draws attention to our city, but we would prefer to be known for the quality food that is part of our culinary tradition.”