I’ve been running past this Italian pizza place in Ladywell so often recently that I had to order from it at least once. Wouldn’t you know it… there’s a brownie on their dessert menu.
Brownies are a dessert that, regardless of specific origin (there are different stories: check out Wikipedia for a brief run-down) are universally agreed to have originated in the United States at some point in the past hundred-plus-change years.
So what’s with the ubiquity of brownies at Italian restaurants?
Ubiquity isn’t literally the word. It is not actually that hard to find an Italian restaurant that doesn’t serve brownies for dessert. I can walk out of my front door and find one within literally two minutes. But brownies aren’t Italian in origin, and they’re not British either, where I live, so it’s not like we’re just seeing spotted dick with custard on every Italian menu. Nor is it like brownies show up on every type of restaurant’s menu. There’s definitely a correlation between the Italianosity (real word) of restaurants, and their browniosity (realer word).
Or… is there? I mean, a quick straw poll of all my Restaurant Brownies (including this one) shows that it’s only six out of thirteen restaurant brownies that come from Italian or Italian-ish restaurants. Maybe it’s not a clear-cut thing. But that is still nearly 50% of all restaurants whose brownies I’ve eaten (from an admittedly small sample size) and that seems high.
So what’s the connection? Could it be that we should really see the association between “Italian-American” and “brownies” and that’s the missing link? That all, or most, of the Italian restaurants that I’ve had brownies from are closer to “Italian-American”? I could see it for some of them: Pizza Hut, Pizza Express, Papa John’s (that I haven’t yet got round to, but apparently they have a ‘giant brownie’), but not all. There’s no suggestion that Mamma Dough is an Italian-American concept of an Italian restaurant. Unless my very own concept of an Italian restaurant is so influenced by Italian-American cuisine that I have no real frame of reference for anything else. I mean, I’d think this probably wasn’t the case, seeing as how: I live in London (a global, multi-cultural, cosmopolitan city much closer to Italy than America); I’ve been to Italy more than a few times and haven’t encountered anything culinary that’s shocked me; I don’t live in America.
What’s the point of all this, you ask? It’s kind of just something to fill a blog post arguably, but I do also ponder it. I feel – anecdotally – that if you look at all the cuisines that are frequently available to me in the form of restaurants and takeaways, Italian restaurants are most likely to have a brownie dessert, and that’s kind of an interesting choice if you look at it in the context of all world cultures. But then on the other hand that might not be the correct context. Not all cuisines of the world become famous, popular or even available worldwide – even in a world city like London. I’m an occasional defender of British food, but I don’t expect it to be available on Uber Eats in New York. I enjoy Hungarian cuisine but that’s not exactly dominating the takeaway market either.
No, if you look at the key cuisines on Deliveroo near my area (as an assumed-to-be-representative sample) you get Italian right near the top, with key ones under it being Indian, Chinese, Turkish and American. So maybe it’s not really a case of brownies becoming associated with Italian food. Maybe it’s that brownies are associated with a vaguely American-Western European broad style of cuisine, and in the restaurant market round here, Italian just dominates that.
Taste: Hmmm. This is… I dunno, ‘tasteless’ is not quite the right word… but weirdly bland? As if it needed more sugar… or chocolate… or anything really. 5/10
Texture: Not good. It has some softer bits in the middle, but is dry and outright crunchy around the outside. 3/10
Presentation: It turned up in the delivery box in a few pieces (as you can see) but I can’t mark down points for that. If this had turned up intact looking like this, I would have given it three points (most likely), marked down one for turning up in a ridiculously oversized box which it rattled around in for no reason OK I GUESS I CAN MARK IT DOWN 2/5
Value: £6.50, and not a good brownie so far. 3/10
Fudge Factor: Mamma Dough seems like a nice place, and they had a delicious goat’s cheese pizza (the ‘John O’Goat’, which amused me) which I enjoyed, even if the garlic bread was literally just a flatbread with a hint of garlic. The menu actually gave instructions on how to warm up the brownie, which I followed, and I do wonder if the brownie would have been better if it was cold. The restaurant provided these instructions, and so it seems fair to attach them to the brownie, buuuut I can’t shake the feeling that maybe it would have scored more highly if I’d eaten it cold. So, at least for now, it gets an extra point to reflect that uncertainty. 1/5
La Ti Dough: 14
Should I Buy And Eat This Brownie?
Mamma Dough looks like it would be a fun place to sit in and eat (and maybe some day that’ll become possible again). They made a delicious pizza that I very much enjoyed, and I would probably also enjoy many of their other pizzas. You shouldn’t be put off from their pizzas just because they made a poor brownie… although they did make a poor brownie, sadly, and I can’t recommend it.
Man, moving home is stressful.