Flavia Bruno: Italian exchange student tries Fettuccine Alfredo for the first time

Flavia Bruno sitting down to enjoy a meal from Gina’s Italian restaurant in Arroyo Grande.

Fueled by exploration and a hunger for new sights and experiences, Flavia Bruno (‘23) traveled from Sicily, Italy to the United States this year on an exchange program.

“I have liked traveling so much since I was little. I wanted to do foreign exchange to travel and completely change my life.

“[Myself and a few other foreign exchange students] were placed randomly, but I am so happy about being placed here [in California].”

So far, Bruno has enjoyed the beach the most. She mentioned she’s been taken aback by the stunning sunsets. 

Bruno rests on a pier in Santa Barbara admiring the beach with the sunset behind her. (Photo courtesy of Flavia Bruno)

“I really liked Santa Barbara. I feel it’s not so big like LA and it’s a good place to go shopping and the beach is so beautiful. The sunsets on the beach…wow.”

Bruno strolls through Santa Barbara exploring shops and taking in the new scenery.  (Photo courtesy of Flavia Bruno)

When she’s not hanging out by the beach or shopping with friends, Bruno spends time in class. In regards to academics, Italy has a very focused curriculum. 

“You do sports at school daily [here in Arroyo Grande] and in Italy, there are no sports. You have to do it outside the school if you want to do a sport,” Bruno explained. “In Italy, it is more like study and study [without any extracurriculars]. Also, in Italy, you choose a subject and then you have to do it for five years and you can’t change it.”

Because of the little access Bruno has to elective classes, clubs, and extracurricular activities in Italy, she has enjoyed having the opportunity to try out these options in the American school environment. 

“I am taking photography and there’s not this subject in Italy. We have more [academic] subjects like philosophy.”

In addition to differences in scenery and academics, Bruno has noticed a large shift in food between her home in Italy and her temporary home here. 

During a dinner at Gina’s in the village of Arroyo Grande, Bruno tasted a couple of Italian dishes and pointed out ways they differed from their traditional versions in Italy.

First up was the bruschetta. Apart from the pronunciation, Bruno approved. 

“It tastes good… although I don’t know why all Americans say bru-shet-ah, it’s bru-sket-ah.”


Bruno tasted the appetizer of bruschetta which she said had a tasty tomato flavor. (Photo courtesy of Olivia Theaker)

The main course, however, strayed the most from traditional Italian food in the eyes of Bruno.

“This is our chicken fettuccine alfredo,” the server of the Italian restaurant said, sporting his tie of green, white, and red. (Photo courtesy of Olivia Theaker)

“[My first impression is that] it’s good actually. I didn’t know what fettuccine alfredo was before coming here… I have never eaten this in Italy… but it’s good.”

Bruno explained that her pasta at home is typically prepared with different flavors and ingredients than the fettuccine alfredo. 

“[Some common dishes in Italy include] Pasta Pomodoro like tomato with tomato sauce or carbonara and amatriciana with tomato.” 

“I eat pasta every day,” she continued. “The stereotypes about pizza and pasta are absolutely true.”

Bruno enjoyed the food, but her knowledge of pasta led her to believe that it may be lacking a little bit of the genuine Italian flavor.

“I like [this dish,] but it’s just not very Italian. It is more American.”

According to Bruno, true Italian food is distinguished based on the ingredients used and how fresh they are. 

“I feel like the ingredients [are what make a dish more Italian] like the quality. For example, in my country house there are olive trees and we make our olive oil, we don’t buy it,” said Bruno. “Sometimes we go to the supermarket like you guys do, but our ingredients are fresher. Here, so many people put things in the freezer…we don’t do that as often.”

The emphasis of cooking in Italian culture isn’t limited to the ingredients though, as preparing the food is a large part of it too. 

“I feel like cooking is very important in Italy. My grandmother is really good at cooking. I feel like I am the only Italian that can’t cook. I’m so bad.”

Her lack of experience in the kitchen doesn’t seem to stand in Bruno’s way of enjoying food, however.

“I’m not super interested in learning [to cook] … I prefer to eat.”

Overall, Bruno said she would give the fettuccine alfredo four out of five stars.

“It’s good. It’s just different.”

A lot of her current life is different than what she’s used to, but her experiences have allowed her to gain new insights into the lives of others and her own mindset toward her homeland. 

“When people hear that you come from Italy they are super amazed like, ‘Oh my god you come from Italy,’ and for me… it’s always been normal and I haven’t really considered that Italy was that beautiful, but it’s so pretty. I feel like I am appreciating more Italian culture now,” Bruno said.