Foods Americans Miss in Italy | Sushi

13 Foods American Expats Miss in Italy

There are plenty of American foods expats miss in Italy. Moving to Italy I knew there would be some things I would miss. Like speaking English. Then there is sushi. Or should I say my sushi habit. For nearly 20 years sushi and a glass of white wine was my monthly treat. Between COVID lockdowns, moving to Italy and my current location in the Italian Alps, I won’t be pulling chopsticks apart anytime soon.

While I find myself gleefully sharing many stories of moving to Italy, this one is about letting go. Moving to a new country means letting go of old routines, habits, and comforts like food. After posting a “Now craving sushi and dill pickles” comment to a ‘Living in Italy’ Facebook group, over 150 expats weighed in almost instantly.

Foods American Expats Miss in Italy

Expats shared tales of crying when friends brought or shipped them Reeses and not having “good Mexican food for 20 years!” An expat from Finland professed cravings for reindeer. The list below includes the top 26 foods I and my fellow American expats living in Italy miss. Little guilty pleasures to be craved forevermore.


Yes, you can find sushi in Italy. Apparently, the best sushi restaurant in Torino is within walking distance from my in-law’s home so there is hope! However, sushi is not in the small mountain town of Bardonecchia where I’ve spent most of my time these first few months in Italy. Neither are dill pickles.

Moving to Italy Foods Americans Miss Sushi
Moving to Italy Foods Americans Miss Sushi at Bamboo Sushi in Portland, Oregon

Dill Pickles

You know the ones. Those really good dill pickles that snap when you bite into them. Not the bread and butter pickles. Sorry, but those are gross! No, I miss the classic summertime treat with dill and a hint of garlic. I even miss making that sour pickle face.

Italians do pickle foods, but the style is different. Agrodolce (or sweet water) is an Italian pickling method that uses vinegar and sugar. It’s sour, but also weirdly sweet. For Americans, craving dill pickles agrodolce simply will not do.

Clothbound Cheddar Cheese

Asiago, Fontina, Gorgonzola, Mascarpone, Mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino di Pienza, La Tur, Caciocavallo, Robiola! Cheese is part of the reason to move to Italy and yet, high-quality cheddar is not that easy to find. Seriously, when you come to visit me in Italy, will you please bring a clothbound cheddar cheese?

Moving to Italy Foods Americans Miss Cheddar Cheese
Moving to Italy Foods Americans Miss Cheddar Cheese

Mexican Food

While “Mexican food” is a very broad category it was mentioned by my fellow American expats time and time again. So much so that everyone started sharing tips on growing cilantro and where to find ingredients from tortillas to believe it or not Old El Paso. You could make fun of America’s “Mexican food” but that would make enjoying Margaritas as big as your head or an endless basket of nachos hypocritical. Where’s the fun in that? Legit street taco spots like Little Conejo in Vancouver, Washington (pictured below) are what I miss the most. Carnitas, when will I taste you again?

Moving to Italy Foods Americans Miss Mexican Food
Moving to Italy Foods Americans Miss Mexican Food

Bottomless Cups of Coffee

Italians refer to American coffee as ‘dirty sock water.’ Ordering a Caffè Americano in Italy, comes with a side of judgment, not a refill. Brunching conversations really do demand a bottomless cup of coffee.

Moving to Italy Foods Americans Miss Coffee Refills
Moving to Italy Foods Americans Miss Coffee Refills

Crunchy Fried Food (Fried Chicken)

Italians do have fried food. Take for example fritto misto. An absolutely delightful mix of fried tidbits often including seafood and vegetables. Where Italians use chilled club soda to keep batter light, American recipes call for buttermilk or beer. Our fried foods are crispy to the point of crunchy. Take for example my favorite, fried chicken. It’s salty, juicy, and when done right not just crispy, but crunchy. I miss all things crispy and crunchy in American cuisine and you can bet the minutes I have a kitchen, I’m frying up some chicken. Now, if I can just find buttermilk…

Moving to Italy Foods Americans Miss Fried Chicken
Moving to Italy Foods Americans Miss Fried Chicken


Italians have “grigliata” as a cooking style, but that stick-to-your-ribs, have to wipe off your face and lick your fingers Texas-Style Mop, Kansas City, North Carolina Vinegar, South Caroline Mustard Style BBQ is exactly what it sounds like, uniquely American.

Moving to Italy Foods Americans Miss BBQ
Moving to Italy Foods Americans Miss BBQ

IPA Craft Beer

I’m cheating a little, this one’s all mine. Living in Portland, Oregon meant having access to the most creative, diverse, and frankly the best craft beer scene in the world (humble brag much!) Italy is slowly changing but most Trattorias or Pizzeria still offer only two or three options. None of which are IPAs. There’s just no hop!

Moving to Italy Foods Americans Miss IPA Craft Beer
Moving to Italy Foods Americans Miss IPA Craft Beer


I think I just heard my New York City friends gasp all the way over here! That everything bagel with lox and a schmear is not so easy to pick up on the way to work in Italy. Bagels were mentioned so much by expats that a few hookups at American military base commissaries were shared. Ten-hut bagel craving coming through loud and clear.

Brown Sugar

White sugar and cane sugar are easy to find but in smaller more rural towns brown sugar is not. Plenty of expats offered up the advice for making brown sugar. Just add molasses to white sugar! Something tells me it’s not that simple. This brings me to….

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Can’t find them and without brown sugar, chocolate chip cookies are just not the same. Have a recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies that doesn’t take brown sugar I’m all ears! Please drop a link in the comments below.

Peanut Butter

Many expats traded tips on where to find peanut butter while even more shared the idea of making it at home “in a jif!” Alas, I don’t have a kitchen yet or know where in the world my kitchen equipment is. Making peanut butter and my two favorite types of cookies peanut butter and chocolate chip is just going to have to wait.

Junk Food

I’m lumping the rest into a category I’ll call junk food. Other frequently mentioned foods missed by American expats in Italy include:

Hot Sauce

“You should follow the local contadini farmer tradition of carrying your home-grown peperoncini in your top pocket. In the restaurant you pull it out and slice a few flakes with your big clasp knife from your other pocket!”
  • Jello. Which ended up in a collective nostalgic sigh for creamy lime jello salad in a fancy jello mold.
  • Hershey’s Chocolate
  • Reeses cups and or pieces
  • Sour Cream
  • Sun chips, Doritos and Ding Dongs
  • Brach’s candy
  • Pancake mix
  • Angel food cake
  • Asian crackers/snacks/ingredients
  • Vanilla for baking
  • Twizzlers
  • Baking powder
  • Lemon Pepper
  • Bisquick
  • Pumpkin Spice Latte
  • Cranberry sauce in the can come Thanksgiving.
  • Welch’s grape juice
  • Hellmann’s mayonnaise. Even though it’s sold in Italy it’s apparently “not the same”
  • Pickled Jalapeños
  • Salted butter
  • Maple Syrup. Now my Canadian friends are groaning!
  • Clothes dryers and ice cubes! The two non food related items American expats just couldn’t help bringing up in our chat. More on that to come later.

I know judge away. These are not healthy foods! That’s the thing about moving to another country. At a certain point, you get a little homesick and your old standbys just are not there or easy to find. New habits form and life of course moves on, but those guilty pleasure cravings still pang at the gut.

Many expats living in Milan or similar large Italian cities noted items on the list can be found if “you look hard enough” or “order online” or “have friends ship them from home.” It’s true that larger cities have more options than smaller rural towns in Italy. No surprise there. Local markets represent the population they serve and Paolo and I are pretty sure I’m the only American in Bardonecchia. I’m just grateful I taught myself to make tortillas before leaving America and can order Masa online! Alas, sushi just doesn’t ship.

Ever been an expat? What foods or habits did you end up craving?

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  1. I served 4 years in the US military stationed in Italy probably the worst food problem was Mexican food. I was mainly in remote areas so even McDonald’s was a treat.

    The various Hispanics I served with would attempt to make ceviche usually that turned out OK but they said the local cilantro wasn’t the same.

    I’m having the opposite problem now of not being able to find correctly made spaghetti carbonara in the Los Angeles/OC area. I’ve done my own and gotten semi close. Also the sandwiches in Italy are so much better nobody gets them right here.

    One of my first culture shocks in Italy was not realizing a traditional American breakfast was not a thing there. I had no clue I was only 19.

    I missed Thai iced tea very badly. It does come canned.

    1. Hi Paul! I love it, thank you for sharing your story. I asked my Husband Paolo about iced tea here in Italy. He agreed that many Italians do make it (a fact that was actually new to me!). He said most Italians just make their own tea then ice it. I’m not sure what tea they use or if they sweeten it with something specific but you’ve given me something to look into! Also an article idea. Boy to Italians love their sweet little (being the operative word) breakfasts. I struggle to eat a sweet pastry standing up for some reason, so I get why they have little bites at breakfast. Can I tell you I just found a package of “American” bacon in my local grocery the other day and actually hugged it! LOL. Oh and carbonara! It took me a few years to master that one as simple as the recipe is. I swear it’s a ration that’s based on the actual size of the egg your using, which is why recipes just never come out right. Still, its so comfort food for us know, I think I know what we’re having for dinner!

  2. Jennifer Edenfeld says:

    I just moved from Portland, OR to the Milan area (20 miles north) in November 2022. The are so many things I miss from the US! Italian food is good but it’s so mild, no spice and all kind of tastes the same after a while. What I wouldn’t do for some good mexican food…..

  3. You forgot cranberry juice. It is not common in Italy and if you ask for “Succo di Martillo”, you are usually met with a black stare ?

    1. Oh that’s a good one! I haven’t looked for it here yet. Now I know not to expect to find it. 😂

  4. I can totally relate! As a Mexican-American from CA living in Italy, I yearn for good Mexican food. I’ve made my own tortillas, salsa, rice and beans here but there are some ingredients I just can’t find (i.e. cotija and queso fresco) and don’t even get me started on the price of avocados here. You should make a sushi trip to Milan. We have excellent sushi here!

    1. Hi Janie! I’m so pleased to meet you! Have you been able to find masa flour here? I’ve heard it can be ordered. I would drive to Milan for good sushi and Masa!

      1. Likewise, Brandy! I have found a Peruvian version of masa but it’s not the same. It’s too pricey online. When friends and family come to visit they always bring me a bag.!

    1. YES! Do you remember your first introduction to Indian cuisine? Is it still a favorite dish today?

      1. Indian cuisine is not love at first sight, it is something that grows into you. In Washington DC there are some outstanding restaurants. My favorites are the vegetable combinations, and their “fried spinach”, something I never found anywhere else. (There was an article about it in the Washingtonian [I think] because they are super popular in town).
        Yes, their dishes are still favorite today, … when i get to go back to DC.
        You can find good sushi in italy now, but not good Indian restaurants—and if there is one, it is rather difficult to convince Italians to give it a try.

        1. Oh man Rasika in DC! I went for work a few times and swooned over the food. It is true Sushi can be found sadly not the town I’ll be living in or anywhere close. I have found really good affumicato and strangely wasabi at the grocery store though that will be my go-to! Oh and OMG I am looking up clam chowder recipes now. Boston & Maine!

  5. Oh boy! I can relate to so many of these when I was growing up in England. My parents said when we were living in France, they had to cross the French/Swiss border to get peanut butter!

    1. We’re discovering to find good breweries near us, we’re going to have to drive into France! While I was in Canada I missed Bacon Egg & Cheese Biscuits at McDonald’s (oddly enough). I kept ordering them and getting McMuffins. It took me two months to realize there was no Bacon Egg & Cheese Biscuits on the menu in Canada!

      1. We all have our stories! Lol. I didn’t find Reeses in England for 11 years! Then I found them, but they were meh. Nothing like unique tastes though!

        1. I’ve heard that before with Reese’s. Something about in the US it’s Hershey’s chocolate but not in the UK or Canada… more like Smarties chocolate. Oh man SMARTIES!

  6. Excellent! So much that I can relate to here!! Peanut Butter and Cheddar can be found here but you’ll need a second mortgage to buy them 😉

    1. Oh, that’s funny and yet painful at the same time. The best thing to do really is to get into the local foods as fast as possible. Thankfully that’s not hard in Italy. Although… ask me in another six months and I might be ready for a small loan for some tacos 😉