It is important to know our roots, to understand how we became the people we are. Compared to my ancestors, I’m normal.
Popular belief holds that spaghetti was discovered by Marco Polo during his travels to and from China back in the 13th Century. This is not true. My family beat that Venetian upstart by a few decades. The inventor of spaghetti and various other forms of long pasta was my distant ancestor Salvatore “Fat Sal” Minicozzi.
Fat Sal was not a gangster, even though several of his family members had ended up either in jail or in the Bay of Naples, for reasons our family refuses to tell anyone. They didn’t have gangsters in Italy back then, just plain old garden variety thieves, con artists, murderers and fashion designers. Fat Sal was too lazy to chase after people with a knife or slip poison into their Pinot Bianco, and too dumb to come up with a good Ponzi scheme. He became a street food vendor instead.
At first, people were flocking to his cart for his meat dishes. Then someone noticed that the local pigeon population was declining at a rapid rate and that Fat Sal was throwing a lot of feathers into the garbage. From then on, his customers stuck to his pizzas, hoping they were all made from ingredients that wouldn’t make them want to barf. Street Pigeon al Forno was delicious, until you found out what it was.
Fat Sal was the only street food vendor within the radius of a mile, courtesy of his two scary-looking sons, Gennaro and Rocco, who could kick ass – literally. They would kick the donkeys of the other vendors, sending the beasts stampeding down the street, with fruit and vegetables and big hunks of cheese flying all over everywhere. After this happened a few times, the other vendors usually gave up and moved somewhere else. In stubborn, difficult cases, Fat Sal’s daughter Agnese the Amazon would join them. Agnese was as big as a man and almost as strong and she had enough hair on her face to make a small fur coat. She would pin the victim to the ground and give him the option of moving away or marrying her. They all chose to move.
This gave Fat Sal a local monopoly, which was fine with him. Because he had no competition, he could charge whatever price he wanted and make his pizza portions smaller. His pizza slices eventually became so small that they were nothing but thin strips. People had to wind them around a fork to eat them. This gave Fat Sal the only idea he ever got in his life. Instead of making pizzas, he just took some dough and made long, thin noodles. With a dollop of tomato sauce and cheese they tasted pretty good.
Fat Sal became the Spaghetti King of Naples. He expanded his operation to a chain of spaghetti food carts, with franchises all over Italy. He became very rich and retired to a villa on Capri, where he died choking on an undercooked noodle.
So that is how the Italians were introduced to spaghetti. If anyone tries to tell you differently, don’t listen.