Wondering why do Italian homes have two kitchens? First off, food is the heart of Italian culture. For Italians, food is more than just sustenance — it is a celebration of life, love, and family. In Italian culture, nothing tops sharing a home cooked meal with loved ones.
The cooking part can be fun. And if you are Italian, gathering the family around the dinner table for a delicious home-cooked meal is the cherry on top. But the thing is, having a messy kitchen is generally frowned upon in Italian culture. And cooking is inherently messy.
Excess ingredients are bound to splatter, drip, squirt, and splash all over the place. And no matter how much you enjoy cooking, it’s hard to put a fun spin on the amount of cleaning you’ll have to do afterward. That is where a second kitchen comes in in Italian homes.
Why Do Italians Have Basement Kitchens?
To solve this problem, many Italian homes come with two kitchens. Usually, one is on the first floor, and the other is tucked away in the basement.
And it’s not just a makeshift kitchen with a microwave and hotplate; it’s a full-on kitchen in the basement.
The cooking is done in the basement kitchen, and food is served in the upstairs kitchen.
Doing all the messy stuff down in the downstairs kitchen ensures that the upstairs kitchen is spick and span when loved ones gather around to eat.
Why Do Italian Homes Have Two Kitchens?
A second kitchen in Italian homes serves as a space for Italian women to do messy food preparation without the stress of mopping the floor and cleaning the stove afterward. Here, they can cook and move freely without worrying about making a mess.
While having two kitchens is not a uniquely Italian cultural trait, it stems from the Italian concept of ‘Fare Bella Figura.’ In Italian culture and lifestyle, it’s the desire to make things look more appealing to make a good impression.
Sure, you’ll still have to clean up the basement kitchen afterward, but there’s usually not a great sense of urgency.
The absence of that nagging feeling of dread associated with cleaning makes the meals and the company of your loved ones more enjoyable.
Other Reasons Italians Homes Have Two Kitchens
Cleanliness is the primary reason Italian homes come with two kitchens. But it’s not the only reason.
Italians prefer doing all their cooking and food preparation in the basement because of the desire to hide cooking odors.
Some foods such as fish, can leave bad odors in the kitchen, especially if you don’t clean thoroughly after every meal.
Cooking smells can even spread to other rooms. Doing all your cooking in the basement kitchen helps mask bad cooking odors.
Also, many Italian immigrants have two kitchens in their homes for cultural reasons.
Having two kitchens in a home represents the significance of food in Italian culture and provides a way for first-generation Italians to bring Italy into their American homes.
How the Two-Kitchen Setup in Italian Homes Works
Usually, both kitchens are complete with a stove, sink, fridge, and sometimes even a freezer.
However, the upstairs kitchen is fancier. It’s primarily used for show, and it’s where the family entertains. The basement kitchen is where the family gathers to eat every day.
In most Italian households with two kitchens, nobody is allowed to use the upstairs kitchen. Sure, you can boil a cup of coffee or tea.
However, try to make a pot of spaghetti sauce or fry meatballs up there, and you’ll have a problem with the lady of the house.
The basement kitchen is fair game. Anyone can bake, fry, and make all the messy meals they want here.
Unlike the upstairs kitchen, where everything is sleek and modern, the basement kitchen is where all the old stuff goes.
When pots and pans get scratched or dented, they end up in the basement kitchen. It’s the same with old kitchen appliances, such as refrigerators, stoves, and even toasters. Nothing is ever thrown out unless it no longer functions.
The History of Two Kitchens in Italian Homes
Having two kitchens is a common tradition for many Italians living in North America, dating back to the post-war period.
Upon their arrival in the United States and Canada, many post-war Italian immigrants purchased homes with unfinished basements.
Initially, the first-floor kitchen would serve the family’s cooking and dining needs. Later, when the newly settled family raised enough funds, they would turn the unfinished basement into a second kitchen complete with a fridge, stove, etc.
While homes with two kitchens are becoming obsolete in the Italian diaspora, having two kitchens is still a common trend in Italy.
Many Italian women still prefer to do their actual cooking in a small, improvised kitchen tucked away in the basement, garage, or veranda.
Having two kitchens is a distinctive feature of Italian homes in North America. It’s a tradition post-war Italian immigrants brought over from Italy and into their American homes. It stems from the Italians’ desire to make a good impression by keeping their homes clean and appealing.
Wayne J. is a writer and editor for Mybeautifulhaven.com. He is happy to put in the time and effort to conduct thorough market research to identify common issues faced by households concerning their plumbing systems and other household fixtures. His passion is to help you solve the most pressing issues you are facing in your home and recommend the best products available on the market.