The Baseline

Mosaic of FoodI just got back from a couple of weeks in Italy. Yes, I know you feel bad for me, having to spend literally weeks in Italy, but I assure you that I soldiered through it bravely. As a food writer in Italy, there are plenty of thoughts and conversations about how good the food is. The interesting thing is, though, that it's not that you'll necessarily have the best meal of your life in Italy. I mean, you might, there is certainly the possibility, but the greatest food in Italy is not necessarily going to be better than the greatest food in the US, France, or Japan, for example. 

From my perspective, Italian food (in Italy) has two things going for it: 1) It is very compatible with my American-raised palate, and 2) the minimum expectation for when food tastes acceptable is significantly higher than in the US. This means that getting a cup of espresso is going to mean that you get something very tasty and drinkable, not a big cup of bitter. This means that going to a random cheap pizza place means you get something that is at least comparable to the top 20% of most US pizzerias, as opposed to, say, a Domino's, Papa John's, or Little Caesar's. This means that, if you go somewhere for a random bowl of pasta, you're not going to get plan noodles drowned in industrial-grade tomato sauce.

Oh, sure, you can find places that have terrible food. There are, after all, at least two McDonald's in Rome. But in the bell-curve of restaurant quality, the hump is going to lean heavily towards the right-hand side of the graph.