The coming of a new cuisine to Peru means there is something new to discover: New flavors, scents, textures. With time, these new gastronomies get changed. They become molded, mutated, adapted to the Peruvian palate and often a new cuisine is born from the blend, thanks to the endless creativity of cooks.
Italians migrated in large numbers to Peru, principally from the capital of Liguria and especially from the port of Genoa, which was the cradle of great navigators of the Mediterranean. It is also the place from which the vast majority of immigrants came who were to establish themselves in Peru.
At first Peru’s massive deposits of guano attracted them since they were good merchants. They also saw that those who set themselves up in Peru lived well. At the time Genoa was suffering economically.
The height of this immigration was between 1840 and 1880. Some Italians had come earlier, during the period of the colonies. But they came sporadically. In 1840 there were maybe a thousand Italians in Peru. Forty years later there were more than 10,000. The majority of the Italians were scattered among our cities, especially those of the coast and even more so the ports. The District of La Punta (Callao), Tacna, and Ica among others were the primary draws. (Source).
On arriving many of them set themselves up as cooks. They opened small restaurants where they offered their best dishes. As is often the case, their food was not accepted quickly. There is almost always a struggle for it to gain recognition.
For the time, the Italian cooking was considered sophisticated because of the reductions, sauces, and all the cheeses that require years of aging to obtain their perfect flavor and the abundance of pasta. They required a balanced flavor, not too strong but complete.
This just wasn’t sufficient for Peruvian palates which were accustomed to dishes inundated with strong flavors an with powerful dressings filled with meats, vegetables, and varieties of stews. Little by little the Italian cooks began realizing the issues and, with the help of Peruvian cooks, began fusing the two cuisines. In this way they achieved amazing results. They obtained a subtlety of sauces with milk cream and mature cheeses in combination with Peruvian peppers. They combined perfectly and were converted into true works of art. A new kind of flavor arrived, not too strong nor too gentle. It was perfect.
Enriching Italian sauces with the introduction of ours was the change that was needed to draw the attention of Peruvians. On making this fusion, Italian food was able to familiarize our palates to their cooking. It no longer seemed as strange as before.
Some examples of this would be the tagliatelles with a prawn sauce, that is prawns flambées in pisco with parmesan cheese. To finish the dish, fresh leaves of cilantro. This made a great dish. Milk cream goes very well with the prawn sauce and the unique flavor of the corals that the prawns carry in their loin.
Another example: duck ravioles with loche squash puree and the sauce of stewed duck (seco de pato).
The great soup called minestrone carries a great variety of vegetables, potatoes, beans and a green pasta very similar to the pasta al pesto but made on the base of cilantro greens. They give it a point of flavor together with the meat, to make a very good and nourishing soup.
Finally, the most well known principal ingredient that can enter Italian cuisine in Peru is our yellow potato. From them you can make wonderful gnocchi. These combine beautifully with any sauce, for example an Alfredo, a Bolognese, a white sauce, and an infinity more. This may well have been the best creation of our fused cuisines.
Peru’s restaurants have created many more like these and have drawn attention to the now offerings. A new style of restaurant has been created, called Italo-Peruvian. It is separated from the cuisine that is purely Italian.
Today a multitude of families of Italian descent and of Italians married to Peruvians exist. In them the secrets of Peruvian and Italian cooking continue to fuse and create new dishes. They offer them in ma and pa restaurants. They are often wonderful because of the love put into each of their dishes.
These restaurants keep the best of the two cuisines alive whenever they make fresh pasta every morning along with good dressings. This takes hours but makes wonderful food. It is magical for the lovers of good food. And to Discovery these offerings you merely need to make an expedition through limas neighborhoods and those of other cities. The willingness to undertake adventure is the only barrier.