Reflecting on Italian American foods that were discontinued by their manufacturers.
To the dismay of toddlers and people fighting the common cold in the Italian American community, pasta maker, Ronzoni, will discontinue their popular “Pastina.” In a Twitter post, the 108-year-old manufacturer said the nano-sized, star-shaped pasta was no longer being produced by its supplier. To mark the sad occasion, we look back on five Italian American foods you’ll never eat again.
These tiny star-shaped noodles sold by the Ronzoni company are being discontinued because of supplier problems, it was announced last week. The term pastina means "tiny dough," and has long been a favorite food to feed young children their first taste of macaroni. They are the smallest shaped pasta sold by Ronzoni, who apologized on Instagram for ending the sales. Don't worry, pastina lovers, Barilla makes a star-shaped pastina and De Cecco has a Pastina Acini d'Pepe, a similar-sized pasta named for peppercorns.
Chef Boyardee Pac Man
In the 1980s, the hottest form of entertainment was feeding quarters into video arcade machines, and one of the most popular was Pac-Man. Pac Ma, the character, was even inspired by a pizza – one with a slice cut out of it. The game first launched in 1980 and was wildly popular despite the rudimentary graphics by comparison to today's machines. Tie-ins with popular merchandise were inevitable, so in stepped Chef Boyardee. Anyone who was anybody ended up in a can of spaghetti-os like Spider-Man and Yoda. Pac-Man was no exception. The Chef Boyardee pasta includes shapes like the titular character and the ghosts. The ad campaign featured animated characters Pac-Man, Mrs. Pac-Man, and a baby Pac-Man. The canned pasta came in three flavors: meatballs, cheese, and chicken. The line of pasta has since been retired, much like the arcade game machines that inspired it.
Italian pasta manufacturer Buitoni has been making pasta since the 1820s, which kind of leads to the question: what were they thinking? The Buitoni Toasterinos was a frozen food designed to be heated in American toaster ovens. These abominations were part cheeseburger, part pizza, described as a double crust filled with ground beef, "pizza" sauce, and cheese. Toasterinos peaked in the 1970s, about the same time that fast-food pizza chains were going national.
Despite its disappearance from the shelves, there is even a Facebook Group – totaling over 6,000 people – dedicated to reviving this forgotten food.
The Burger King Veal Parmigiana Sandwich
The chain better known for cheeseburgers wanted to expand its product line in the 1970s at the same time competition from new fast food upstarts like Pizza Hut and Dominoes had started encroaching on their territory. Their solution was to launch a new Italian-American-inspired menu item, the veal parmigiana sandwich. The first sandwich was launched into test markets in 1980 with a patty, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese. The sandwich wasn't all that popular with consumers, but it did catch the eye of animal rights activists who took issue with the sandwich using veal. In what was one of the first organized boycotts of a product by PETA, dozens of groups called for an end to the sandwich. Whether it was because of the protests or simply because the sandwich wasn't that good, Burger King dropped the veal parmigiana a few years after launching it.
Enrico Caruso Branded Everything
The opera singer Enrico Caruso was perhaps the most important 19th Century Italian foodie in America. Famous for singing opera, the man loved to eat. He arrived in New York City in 1903 to sing at the Metropolitan Opera, and from that point on American audiences followed him wherever he went, including to the restaurants he ate at. He had a standing reservation at, Del Pezzo, in midtown Manhattan. So many people came to eat there with the hope of seeing Caruso, the owner named Spaghetti alla Caruso after him. This tomato sauce includes chicken liver, a favorite of Caruso who believed it helped make his voice stronger. But what really set Caruso apart was his willingness to lend his name to products, for a fee of course. In the early twentieth century, consumers could buy everything from sewing kits to soap bearing the singer's name. Enrico Caruso Olive Oil and Enrico Caruso Coffee were two popular items. There was even a Caruso chain of restaurants in New York and Newark, New Jersey. However, he died prematurely at the age of 1921, and his fame faded soon after his death as did the product lines named for him.