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The Italian American TableFood, Family, and Community in New York City$
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Simone Cinotto

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780252037733

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037733.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use (for details see www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy).date: 26 September 2018

Serving Ethnicity

Serving Ethnicity

Italian Restaurants, American Eaters, and the Making of an Ethnic Popular Culture

(p.180) 6 Serving Ethnicity
The Italian American Table

Simone Cinotto

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines how Italian restaurateurs used food to represent Italian American identity and nation outside the community. In the interwar years, the position of Italian Americans in the larger life of New York City was still far from secure and subject to a complicated range of attitudes. The exclusionary Immigration Act of 1924 was filled with fearful allusions to the racial inadequacy of Italian immigrants and their inability to make good American citizens. At the same time, however, Italian immigrant restaurateurs and restaurant workers were beginning to transform cultural differences into highly marketable products for mass consumption. This chapter first provides an overview of the economy of Italian restaurants during the period 1900–1940 before discussing how popular culture, race, and performance converged at such establishments. It also considers customer–worker relations in Italian restaurants and shows that Italian restaurants attracted non-Italian middle-class customers by offering popular Italian food in an original and ultimately appealing ethnic narrative.

Keywords:   race, Italian American identity, Italian Americans, New York City, 1924 Immigration Act, Italian immigrants, Italian restaurants, popular culture, Italian food

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