The typical Brazilo-Italian restaurant - the casual, trattoria-style, not the upmarket contemporary style - boasts a menu which is heavy on pizza, pasta and standard Italian-inspired meat and fish dishes. Not all that different from the New Jersey red-checked tablecloth version. Nor are the choices of pastas all that different from what folks in the northern hemisphere know and love - the pastas are spaghetti, linguine, penne, rigatoni, lasagne etc. and the sauces are bolognese, pesto, amatriciana, arrabiata and puttanesca.
There's one pasta dish that's almost always found on the menu in these establishments, cappelletti alla romanesca, and it hadn't dawned on me until this morning that I'd never seen it offered outside Brazil. In today's Estado de S. Paulo newspaper I read an article on Italian foods found in Brazilian restaurants that really aren't Italian at all - they were invented in Brazil. And there it was as the prime example - cappelletti alla romanesca.
This dish, which basically consists of a plate of meat-filled cappelleti sauced with a combination of chopped ham, peas and mushrooms in a cream sauce, turns out not to have traveled across the Atlantic in the collective memory of Italian immigrants to Brazil, but rather to have been created by a Brazilian chef, Giovanni Bruno, in the 1950s.
Gigetto, had opened in the 1930s and is still open, and perpetually packed, today. During chef Bruno's time at Gigetto, the restaurant was a hangout for artists, musicians, actors and assorted hangers-on. Today, it's mostly populated by tourists.
Now that I'm aware of the story of this dish of pasta, I'm going to look out for it on Italian menus outside Brazil. I'm curious - it's conquered Brazil, but has it traveled beyond Brazil's borders? I don't know, but intend to find out.