By Elizabeth Zanoni
Italians carried their love of pasta to Argentina. At first, much of the pasta they ate was imported from Italy. But by the late-nineteenth century, Italians built pasta factories in Argentina to feed immigrants. Immigrants in homes and boardinghouses also ate fresh pasta prepared mainly by women. Italians introduced Italian-style pasta to Argentines, who combined Italian varieties of fresh and dried pastas with their own pasta-eating traditions rooted in Spain.
In the late-nineteenth century, pasta factories in Italian cities like Naples and Genoa began exporting dried pasta to Argentina to feed hungry Italian immigrants. At the same time, however, Italian food entrepreneurs opened their own pasta factories in cities like Buenos Aires and Rosario, using Italian immigrant laborers and imported machinery as well as skills brought from home.
Façade of Michele Oneto’s pasta factory in Buenos Aires, 1906.
Source: “Pastificio Molino e Fabbrica di Ghiaccio Michele Oneto,”La Repubblica Argentina all’esposizione internazionale di Milano 1906, edited by Lorenzo and Amedeo Serafini. Buenos Aires, 1906.
The 1910 Argentine Industrial Census counted 177 pasta factories throughout the country. Some of these grew into large businesses such as Canessa, Pegassano and Company, and the firm of Michele Oneto, which supplied packaged pasta made in Buenos Aires to Italian consumers throughout Argentina [insert pasta figure 1 here]. The number of pasta factories in Argentina increased especially during and after World War I when the war reduced trade between Italy and Argentina. Pasta, especially fresh and stuffed pasta, was also made regularly in immigrant homes and boarding houses, often by Italian immigrant women. Restaurants owned by Italian immigrants that specialized in Italian regional cuisines also made and served pasta to hungry consumers.
Newspaper advertisement for “La Emiliana” Restaurant in Buenos Aires, 1932.
Source: Advertisement for “La Emiliana” Restaurant in Buenos Aires, Giornale d’Italia (Buenos Aires), April 3, 1932, 3.
Argentina’s Italian communities ate pasta because it was cheap, filling, and easily combined with Italian and Argentine staples such tomatoes, vegetables, and beans to form hearty dishes. Immigrants also introduced Italian-style pasta to Argentines. Many Argentines came from a Spanish food culture that included fideos (noodles). By the 1920s, Italian-style pastas such as spaghetti, tagliatelle, and ravioli had become an essential part of everyday Argentine food culture.
- Silvano Serventi and Françoise Sabban, Pasta: The Story of a Universal Food, trans. Antony Shugaar (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003).
- Elizabeth Zanoni, Migrant Marketplaces: Food and Italians in North and South America (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2018).