New Mexico Meets Italian
New Mexican meets Italian might sound like a title for a potential dating app, but the only apps we’re serving are a combination of Italian and New Mexican cuisine.
When I moved to New Mexico eight years ago, I couldn’t look at spicy food, especially red or green chile. It was too hot, and it took away the pleasure of enjoying a delicious meal. The first night I arrived in Albuquerque I went to an Italian restaurant (name long forgotten) and studied the menu with some words I couldn’t pronounce. I was hoping to find my favorite dish: Penne alla Vodka, but nothing like that existed, even if I requested it. Instead, I came upon a dish called green chile fettucine alfredo, and for those who don’t understand the reason for my disgust, just think about adding barbeque sauce to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It just doesn’t go. After just being on a plane for hours, I was frustrated, tired, and starving, but couldn’t find anything to eat. My mother ordered Polenta, which I kept calling Placenta, and I turned my face in the other direction.
“Where’s the Italian bread and olive oil,” I said after I saw the waiter place a bowl of fried dough in the middle of the table with honey. I asked my uncle what it was (because my parents certainly didn’t know), and he said Sopapillas, and for me to understand the Italian alternative, I looked to my mother and said, “Zeppolle.”
Months later, I discovered a pizzeria called Dions. The pizza there is small and very thick, sometimes impossible to enjoy when it’s not fully cooked in the middle, in which case I tell them well-done. One day while dining at the restaurant, I studied the menu to see other options, and noticed that their cheese blend consists of cheddar and green chile is an available topping for pizza. I tried to find a way to let them know that cheddar is not an Italian cheese; it doesn’t belong on pizza. Unfortunately, I realized the sad truth that they wouldn’t listen to the person who was not even from New Mexico. I had absolutely no chance.
Ten years later, I’m eating green chile, but not on pizza or pasta. I need to keep some things close to home. Green chile chicken stew from Frontier became a favorite while I was a student at the University of New Mexico. It has a strong kick, but a hell of a lot of flavor. Paired with a light and warm tortilla, it’s the perfect treat on a cold afternoon.