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Invention of the Fettuccine Alfredo is a culinary love story inspired by a chef's love for his wife

The world-renowned pasta dish was invented in Rome, Italy when a chef's wife was in postpartum after giving birth to a boy.

Invention of the Fettuccine Alfredo is a culinary love story inspired by a chef's love for his wife
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Engin Akyurt; LitHub | George Rector

Fettuccine Alfredo, a beloved dish, graces the menus of nearly every renowned Italian eatery in the U.S., boasting appearances in over 800 American cookbooks, LitHub reports. One would be surprised to know that though the dish originated in Rome, it is still not as popular there as compared to the US. However, it was invented for a very special reason and later, the dish became so well-known that the restaurant it started in is still running today.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Engin Akyurt
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Engin Akyurt

Alfredo, as we know it, is a pasta tossed with butter and parmesan. The history and invention of the fettuccini alfredo was published in the book, "The Discovery of Pasta - A History in Ten Dishes" by Luca Cesari. Born in 1883, Alfredo di Lelio, the culinary genius behind the dish, cut his teeth at his family's restaurant in Piazza Rossa. It was like any other restaurant in the capital until something happened that changed everything. In 1908, Alfredo's wife, Ines, gave birth to their son, Armando and as she was weak, the man decided to invent a dish that would help her regain her strength.

He made some fettuccine using semolina dough and mixed it with fresh butter and parmesan cheese. He then prayed to St.Anne (patron saint of new mothers) and gave the dish to his wife. He also told her she could give it back to him if she did not like the taste. Thankfully, she liked it so much that she wanted it on the restaurant's menu. The highlight of the dish was the freshness of the ingredients and also the emulsification technique that Alfredo used. It is said to have given an "extraordinary texture" to the sauce.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Klaus Nielson
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Klaus Nielson

In two years, Alfredo's parents' restaurant was shut, but in 1914, Alfredo was able to open a new restaurant in Rome, which he named after himself. Though it is still unknown how the dish traveled to America, one of its first references was in a 1922 popular novel called "Babbitt" by Sinclair Lewis. The protagonist confessed her love for Rome, mainly because of the "little trattoria on the Via della Scrofa where you get the best fettuccine in the world." Cut to 1927, the restaurant was reviewed in the Saturday Evening Post by a food expert and host of a CBS radio show, George Rector. His long article beautifully described "Maestro" Alfredo di Lelio's handiwork. He was so mesmerized by the food and how Alfredo served it that he wrote, "The recipe for the making is very simple. But so is the formula for painting a Rembrandt. Just get oils, canvas and brush and go to it."



 

Hollywood legends Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, after savoring the dish in the 1920s, famously returned with a gift for Alfredo—a gold fork and spoon engraved with "To Alfredo the King of the noodles." These two were the idols of that era and the fact that they endorsed the food caught a lot of attention. According to Collina Italiana, Fairbanks loved the dish so much that he had asked his chefs to recreate it.



 

Alfredo and a partner reportedly opened a restaurant near Rockefeller Center in New York City in 1977. A third restaurant was opened in Epcot at Disney World, which eventually shut in 2007, reports HuffPost. However, when it comes to Italy, it is hard to find Fettuccine Alfredo other than one spot at Alfredo's original restaurant, which is still running today under the new name, "Ristorante Alfredo alla Scrofa."

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