Top Disliked

This page contains a list of the top foods and drinks that are loved by (most) North Americans and hated by (most) Italians, and vice-versa (*).

North American things Italians dislike:

Root beer. A North American classic soda, great with a burger. Tastes terrible to Italians – with a medicinal mouthwash aftertaste that lasts for hours.

Drip coffee. The 12-20 ounces drink represents the standard definition of the word coffee in North America. Italians find it extremely watery.

Dill pickles. A signature side and condiment in North America (and northern Europe). Tastes way too strong to Italians, who order their burgers without pickles, as pulling them out of the burger wouldn’t be sufficient to remove their scent.

Ice cream floats. Soft drinks made by mixing ice cream and soda (e.g. root beer, cola or orange pop and vanilla ice cream). Even just the idea of mixing water and ice-cream is revolting to Italians, even more so when mixing acidic drinks and milk-based products.

Canola oil. Italians strongly dislike it especially as a frying oil because of its distinct flavor and smell.

Alfalfa sprouts.
A fresh addition to sandwiches in North America, where they’re piled up in large amounts. They taste like fresh-cut grass to Italians.

Soft meringue (e.g. in a Lemon Meringue Pie). Partly baked meringues, where only the top is slightly hardened, are considered a delicacy in North America. To the Italians, a ‘meringa‘ is supposed to be absolutely dry, light and crumbly (following the French recipe). Italians eat meringues on their own (like cookies) or use them to make a particular type of ice cream cake called ‘meringata’.

Flavored water. This drink is becoming more popular in North America. It’s still water, sweetened with a 0‑calories sweetener and lightly flavored with natural and artificial flavors. Not all North Americans like it. The Italians find the light flavor and the taste of the sweetener very off-putting.

Italian things North Americans dislike:

Chinotto. A classic soda in Italy, where it’s advertised as “the other way to drink dark”. An acquired taste because of its bitterness, chinotto is many people’s favorite as a refreshment or as an accompaniment to food. North Americans find the bitterness offputting in a soda.

Bitter aperitifs (e.g.: Campari, Aperol). Just like with ‘chinotto’, Italians like the bitter aftertaste of their ‘aperitivi’ drinks. North Americans usually don’t like it.

Amarena (wild cherries in syrup). Used as a condiment for gelato and other desserts, ‘amarena’ is an Italian favorite. Tastes like cough syrup to North Americans.

Latte e menta (cold milk and mint syrup). A refreshing summer drink for the Italians. A really strange and gross idea to North Americans.

Granita alla menta. Similar to a snow cone, a ‘granita’ is a popular summer treat in Italy. Other flavors are also common, but mint is the most classic. North Americans find that it tastes an awful lot like mouthwash.

Lardo (cured pork fatback). Not every Italian likes it, but ‘lardo’ is a popular cold cut, rigorously served with bread. Quite disgusting to North Americans who see it as a lump of pure fat.

Mostarda. A side made of candied fruits or vegetables in a mustard-flavored syrup. In northern Italy, mostarda is a traditional accompaniment to boiled meats, but it also goes really well with aged cheeses. Very few North Americans like it, possibly because its strong aroma is very unexpected for something that looks like a dessert.

Anchovies. Commonly preserved (in salt, or in oil), anchovies are generally liked by the Italians. They are used directly in some traditional dishes (even on pizza!), or to enhance the flavor in several fish preparations. In North America, they are much less popular!

(*) Disclaimer: this list has been compiled by generalizing the opinions of people (on both sides) that I’ve come across, not by conducting any actual study.

18 thoughts on “Top Disliked”

  1. Concordo! With the excpetion of pickles which I quite like, I totally agree with the rest! Never understood any of the other foods.
    BTW is not properly food but I'd like to mention "light beer" in the list of most disliked by Italians…. If you want something light drink water, if you want a beer drink beer!

  2. Thanks for your feedback, Pola. I agree with you on light beer… It's like mixing wine and water… a bad idea!

  3. As an American who grew up in Italy I can see the good and bad of both lists. I adore pickles, sourdough bread, granita alla menta and lardo for example. I understand why an Italian would find root beer weird or why an American would find amarene similar to medicine (think of how many cherry cough medicines they sell in the states!). I am still surprised by how little water people drink in the States while eating as opposed to Italy. Light beer? Probably a less fattening alternative to beer or soda for people who do not consider water as an option? Just a guess…me, I like my beer to be real!

  4. *Nuts about food*, thanks for your comment! One of the reasons why I wrote this page was to see if what I was seeing was true in general or not. And your feedback is particularly interesting. Food preferences are a product of the environment in which we grow up – it seems that we all dislike the flavoring that was given to our childhood medicines and we definitely can't swallow what tasted like mouthwash!

  5. The Soft meringue paragraph reminded me of my disavventura with it. Recipes for lemon meringue pies should come with a special warning for Italian bakers "this is not a meringa and never will be." I enjoyed reading all your choices. How about American drip coffee?

  6. Simona, your meringue warning is very funny 🙂 You are right about drip coffee – it should even be the top item! I guess it's because I got used to it… I'll fix it.

  7. Ciao Paolo,
    Funny about the root beer, but not limited to Italians–pretty much all non-North Americans have that reaction. My Dutch husband among them and many of our European friends. They all make the same face! I grew up between NYC and Rome (Roman father, Italian-American mother)–so I actually like all the things on both lists (except sourdough bread)! I regularly correct people, menus, etc, regarding incorrect Italian, so e' un vero piacere trovare questo blog (ho visto il link a "Due Spaghetti"). I look forward to perusing some more.

  8. I am an American living in Firenze, and as delicious as it smells, I cannot bring myself to try the trippa.

    1. To this day, even hearing the word "trippa" sends chills down not only my spine, but that of my brother and sister. We HATED eating it as kids. But obviously, had no choice but to eat it. Often, we'd stuff our mouths full of bread and add just a sliver of trippa in our mouths to mask the taste. Ahh, good times 😉

  9. As an Italian-American who now lives in Rome, I grew up eating and drinking most of the things in the second column, but I can't get myself to eat lardo — I actually don't know anyone here in Italy who likes it or at least admits to liking it. Chinotto doesn't taste bitter to me, but maybe it is an acquired taste but I rarely drink it since I find it to be too sweet.

    Apart from root beer in the North American column, I never really appreciated any of the food items listed in the first column. And flavored water scares me haha

    1. Thanks a lot for your contribution Keith!

      I like lardo, but in small amounts and on good artisan bread. It was definitely an acquired taste for me: as a kid I was grossed out even by the vein of fat in prosciutto.

      Interesting about Chinotto. My wife, who is Canadian, didn't like it at first, but quickly changed her take on it. Now it's one of her favorite drinks (after Coke, however).

  10. I don't like sweet drinks period. The North American soft drinks and flavoured water (psst, if you are based in Vancouver, stop using US spelling!) but also that disgusting milk and mint syrup concoction (I hate milk too – love cheese and plain yoghurt).

    I think Canola Oil smells like rancid fish.

    But I do like sourdough bread – (pain au levain – perhaps the SF version is more sour?)

    I never have to drink drip coffee in Montréal.

  11. As an American who loves anchovies, I think most Americans dislike them because they once tasted one whole straight out of the can and were repulsed by the strong flavor. When I used them added to dishes, and use them as intended, I always get the comment of, “This is sooo good, what’s in it?? There’s a flavor I can’t pick out.” When I tell them it’s anchovy, they are always shocked. I use them in lots of things, and always keep a jar of imported Italian anchovies in my pantry.

    1. Very good point, Amy! They’re also a fundamental part of the famous Ceasar dressing. Even in Italy, they are used very sparingly: 1 or 2 added to a pizza, or to an appetizer platter – often eaten with plenty of bread.

  12. i can agree wth anchovies being a only need a little bit so they break down impart flavour and are gone.

    as a australian i have seen similar reactions to vegimite witch is made from spent brewers yeast and grain from making beer the brewery is next door to the factory that makes it its piped across.

    many foriengers see the picture of it spread thickly on toast and think that’s the way it should be, wrong! it should be spread thin so you can see the toast or bread underneath a teaspoon full is enough for 4or 6 full slices of toast (some do like it stronger). yes its rather salty so its also used to make stocks and for umami flavour in sauces and stews etc. its a common thing when sick with colds and flu or upset tummy to have vegimite broth seasoned with a bit more salt.(you get some of the goodness of a beer with out the beer)

    it is also used as a topical treatment for mouth ulcers get a bit on the end of your finger and dab it on the ulcer the saltiness will help it heal it also tastes better than some of the commercial preparations from the pharmacy.

    1. Thanks, Chris for your comment! I did have a taste of vegemite from an Australian friend who brought me a sample and I totally see what you mean. I liked it 🙂

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