Mayonnaise and Italy

There are no good avocados in Italy – but there is no mayo either!

Being from California Haas country in a former life, the idea of mayo in guacamole is truly horrifying. :dizzy_face:

Aioli is mayo, no?

Aioli is not actually mayonnaise, and it is in dispute whether even it is historically Italian – it may have been Roman at one point, but disappears from Italian tables after the end of the Roman empire, unless you want to reclaim everything over the French border that used to include Monaco and Nice (Nizza). Mayonnaise much later creeps over the border into Piemontesi cooking, mainly in the form of tuna sauce or, near the French border on the coast, around San Remo, you will find an elaborate cold seafood dish made in a mold that is decorated with ribbons of piped-over mayonnaise and which is called an “insalata Russa.” It was supposedly the favorite dish of the Russian royalty that wintered on the Italian Riviera. But these are essentially French concoctions.

Other than that, plastic tubes of Kraft (or Calvo) mayonnaise are sold in Italian supermarkets but it doesn’t show up much on Italian tables except in little “stuzzichini” that get served with aperitivi in bars. In my experience, dishes like beef carpaccio are squirted Jackson Pollack-style with mayonnaise sauces outside of Italy, but within Italy, no.

and an insalata russa

[Edited to add: Just not to be too categorical about it, here are some websites devoted to historical Italian cooking that include recipes for maionese. But I personally never encounter it in Italy other than in the areas closest to France – or in trendy restaurants.

So there’s no mayo in Italy, except there is, because [quote=“HolyTerroir, post:70, topic:1234”]
Mayonnaise much later creeps over the border into Piemontesi cooking
and [quote=“HolyTerroir, post:70, topic:1234”]
plastic tubes of Kraft (or Calvo) mayonnaise are sold in Italian supermarkets
I suppose you can split hairs about whether aioli is or isn’t mayonnaise, but since the two substances share (most of) an ingredient list, as well as a method of preparation, it seems like a distinction without a difference.

Excuse my hyperbole, but there is so little of anything that most people would call mayonnaise in Italy, even in Piemonte, and they are so unlikely to find it in their food, it’s worth knowing that if you are interested in the cuisine of Italy, and especially worth knowing that aioli is not mayonnaise (that is not splitting hairs). The Italian word for garlic is aglio, and garlic is THE fundamental ingredient, and that is not the case with mayonnaise.

It’s hard to find an analogy, but apart from finding dabs of mayonnaise on cheap snacks in bars, it’s just not part of Italian eating. If you go to Piemonte and ask for mayonnaise with your veal … well, I wouldn’t recommend doing that!

[Edited to add: Sorry if this link to Chowhound is an offense because of a bad history with Chowhound, but it popped up high on the google search for explaining the difference between mayonnaise and aioli, and I think it’s pretty good:

Here’s a quote from that article: “aioli and hollandaise are specific types of mayo.”

You’re working so strenuously to be didactic that you’ve lost sight of two things that are true: mayonnaise is available in Italy (you said so yourself) and aioli is a type of mayonnaise (according to the article you linked to as a reputable source). No one is suggesting that mayo is commonly used in Italian cooking. While I feel safe in saying that most Americans don’t cook with fish sauce, if I said “no fish sauce in the U.S.,” I’d be lying.

1 Like

Got it…but still don’t want it!

I was turned off almost completely to mayonnaise after having visited bakeries throughout East Asia. The mayo with pork floss was as bad as the milt gunkan maki I ate years later.

It is somewhat surprising that I’m also not easily disturbed by massive amounts of cream cheese spread on bagels, though I guess the NY upbringing keeps that one under wraps.

Hi, why did I know you would pounce on that one phrase and miss the point? Please re-read this exchange. You started out with the belief that aioli is Italian – it is not – and that mayonnaise is the same thing as aioli, it is not. Far from being dug in, I included in my posts Italian recipes for mayonnaise and pointed out the rare places its’ found in Italy. Your posts have turned sufficiently unpleasant and personal, I’m no longer interested in engaging. I made a lighthearted remark, but the overall truth about what Italian cooking is and isn’t is too important to me to want to spoil the pleasure I take in learning and sharing about its fine points dealing with this kind of attitude – which is, alas, I’ve discovered is very common among Americans, why I’m not exactly sure, since they seem to only be irritable when it comes to the fine particulars of Italian cuisine in Italy, not other foreign cuisines.

Before departing this thread, I do want to clear up the confusion about aioli and mayonnaise. They are not the same (and aioli is not Italian), and surely some people are interested. Any google search asking “What is the difference between aioli and mayonnaise?” will turn up dozens of helpful hits. Here is one – and while people can pick over this phrase or that to try to prove that there really isn’t any difference, there actually is, historically and today:

The absence of mayonnaise and mayonnaise type condiments overall in Italian cooking is striking, given the high popularity of mayonnaise and sauces like it in other European countries. Italy is odd this way. It is worth noting, and worth knowing that if you go to France or Spain and try to persuade them that aioli is Italian, you will face quite a “didactic” lecture. People tend to care about these hair-splitting differences in Europe.

I am not quite used to waking up in the morning to see it implied I am lying about something I am not lying about at all. I have bitten into sandwiches in Italy sold in train station vending machines that have mayonnaise in them. I have seen it the supermarkets and had dabs of it served free to me in humdrum bars during the cocktail hours. There are no doubt Michelin star restaurants in Italy using mayo (with yuzu?). But places that take care about traditional regional cooking in Italy have nothing to do with mayonnaise, and even in Piemonte, where one might be tempted to identify a taste as mayonnaise, the correct answer is usually more complicated than that.

I am certain some people care about these distinctions, just as much as I care about not finding mayonnaise in guacamole!

You went off on some wild tangent about aioli in response to a question about whether it’s a type of mayonnaise (yes) and also whether it’s found in Italy (yes). It’s lovely that you have such a passion for Italian food - so much so that you felt the need to bring it up during a discussion of guacomole - but your defensiveness and condescension make it difficult to take you seriously. Although they do provide a vivid illustration of why you’ve encountered “this kind of attitude” in the past.

I remember not finding any decent mayonnaise in Italy when studying there - they just had Kraft and Calvo, which is just as bad - and also, very little decent mustard. There were so many other good things to eat that it wasn’t a grave problem, but I wish I’d bought a decent pot of each when arriving via France!

Another thing that was horrid (IMHO) in Italy was their croissants; too sweet and often filled with crème pâtissière. I had to get to Turin (near France geographically and culturally) to find a decent croissant. Pleasant indeed because Italian coffee was generally much better than French (talking bog standard, this was at the railway station café). Nowadays I’m sure there are decent croissants to be had in Italy, and there are cafés in France with coffee that isn’t horribly bitter.

You know what’s SO INTERESTING (to me, anyway). That mayo is an avocado sub in guac, and avocado is a tuna sub in a California roll. There’s a flow chart here, just waiting to happen.

1 Like

If mayo is an avocado substitute in guacamole, isn’t that just mayo?

Anyway, this sounds terrible.

I feel very stupid for not understanding this sentence, but I do not understand this sentence.

Oh! I get it now. Yeah, my original example was imprecisely phrased. I meant that mayo was a substitute for “what makes avocados especially avocado-y” in guacamole that would otherwise contain sub-par avocados. But I couldn’t wrestle that idea into a concise phrase.

I wonder why avocados don’t do well in Italy? There are certainly southern Italian regions that have climate zones similar to where avocados grow in Mexico and California. I think I’ve also seen avocados from Greece and Israel in Italy…

I’ve never had guacamole with mayonnaise added, though I’ve seen it, pre-packaged (yecch!) in supermarkets.

Surely aioli or allioli is simply mayo flavoured with garlic.

So… what does the ‘traditional’ sauce for vitello tonnato usually consist of? Is mayonnaise not one of the ingredients?

To my knowledge yes, although every recipe I’ve seen calls for making your own emulsion with eggs and oil rather than opening a jar of Hellman’s :smile:

But that’s what mayonnaise is… eggs and oil.

This is so confusing '-)

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold