by John MARIANI
Simply put, there was no Italian food before there was an Italy. There was Tuscan food and Ligurian food and Sicilian food and Sardinian food, but for 2,000 years there was no Italian food. Not until 1861, when most of its 20 regions were unified as a kingdom under Victor Emmanuel II, was there a country called Italy. Even then, city states like Venice and Rome, which was declared the new capital, and part of the Papal States, remained separate from the new country. Before 1861 and for a century afterwards, what people ate in Rome had little to do with what they ate in Bari, and when Florentines dined, it was not on the same food and wine enjoyed by Neapolitans or Venetians. There was regional food, but for 2,000 years there was no Italian food. Especially in the kitchen, Italians have always resisted being mere Italians.