American Birthplace of Fettuccine Alfredo
We told you the Roman origins of Fettuccine Alfredo in a post we did a while back for National Fettuccine Alfredo Day. We have since discovered exactly how it arrived in America and thought we would share that with you.
Chef Alfredo di Lelio invented Fettucine Alfredo in 1914 for his pregnant wife who had terrible morning sickness. It was about the only thing she could eat. It was so delicious he added it to the menu of his small restaurant on the Via della Scrofa in Rome.
Then, in 1920, silent film stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford went to Rome on their honeymoon and ate at Alfredo’s establishment. The silent film stars tried the dish, which was then called pasta al burro, and loved it. They asked for the recipe, and it became a hit in Hollywood.
Fairbanks and Pickford sent Alfredo and his wife a gold fork and spoon, engraved with the words “To Alfredo, the King of the Noodles.” Hollywood papers reported on the gift, which also included a photo of the two stars in the restaurant, and pretty soon, Alfredo’s restaurant became a tourist destination, which you can still visit today.
The missing part of the story is that the stars brought the recipe to the Hollywood restaurant of the stars, the Musso and Frank Grill. Located on what is now the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it was and still is a favorite hang-out of the start. Charlie Chaplin ate there so much he had his own booth. Other celebrities that hung out there include Greta Garbo, Rudolph Valentino, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor, Jimmy Stewart, and Marilyn Monroe, and the list goes on.
The restaurant’s back room hosted the glitziest private parties. It also became a second home to some of the greatest writers in American history. Regulars included influential writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Raymond Chandler, John O’Hara, T.S. Elliot, and Dorothy Parker.
So there you have it. The story of how a small restaurant in Rome and the special dish he made for his pregnant wife became an American favorite overnight through silent film stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, a Hollywood restaurant and the power of the press.