It's winter getaway season, which means folks are flocking to warm tropical islands -- and eating spaghetti and meatballs when they get there.
My parents are spending the week in Aruba and kicked off their vacation with a dinner at Gianni's Ristorante Italiano, a massive red sauce eatery where tourists queue up at the host stand by the dozens. "They make a really good lemon veal," my mother told me apologetically, knowing I'd wonder why she was eating Italian-American food just 15 miles from the Venezuelan border. (In her defense, she's allergic to fish and seafood, which rules out more traditional island fare.)
But a new poll suggests there's no reason for my mother to feel embarrassed: According to a survey released by Global Travel Industry News, more than half of American travelers prefer to eat Italian food while vacationing. A whopping 54 percent of respondents reported they'd seek out Italian classics; while a mere 35 percent said they'd choose American food. (The survey didn't differentiate among travelers' destinations, so there's no way of knowing if all those meatball fans had plane tickets to Rome.)
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So do the survey results mean American tourists are culinarily conservative? Not necessarily: Two-thirds of respondents reported they "make it a point to try the local cuisine." But there is still a sizeable group of tourists for whom authentic eating experiences hold no allure: 18 percent of travelers surveyed said they'd prefer to eat at an American fast-food chain instead of a local restaurant, which may be why, in Aruba, there's a Sbarro one block down from Gianni's.