It’s official: The best traditional food in the world is the margherita pizza.
Actually, as such things go, that’s not a bad choice. Everybody loves pizza, and the margherita — just tomato sauce, cheese and basil — has the additional virtue of being simple and pure. Plus, the red, white and green colors are also, not coincidentally, the colors of the Italian flag.
A food-based website called TasteAtlas recently published a list of what it claims are the 100 best traditional foods in the world, as ranked by 63,402 votes.
Sixty-three thousand four hundred and two votes is not a bad sample, though the votes were obviously cast by far fewer voters than that. Still, with so many people chiming in, the results are bound to be thorough. And this group of voters appears to be unusually well informed about foods from around the world.
The second-best traditional food in the world, according to the site, is adana kebap, a spiced ground-lamb kebab first popularized in the Turkish city of Adana. Third place goes to the iconic Japanese noodle dish ramen.
You’ll get no argument from me with these and most of the other selections. But I do have a concern when they get more specific and try to say which restaurant in the world makes the best example of each dish.
For instance, the list suggests that the very best margherita pizza in the entire world is L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, in Naples, Italy.
I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been to Naples. For that matter, I’ve never been to Italy. Nevertheless, I once had a margherita pizza at Il Giardino Ristorante in Virginia Beach, Virginia, that was outstanding.
I have to wonder how many of the people who cast the 63,402 votes have actually eaten the margherita pizza at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. I doubt any of them have been to Il Giardino. Virginia Beach is not the sort of place that would attract people who have even heard of saltibarscia (a Lithuanian cold and tangy beet soup poured over shredded cucumbers and hard-boiled eggs), much less to list it as the seventh-best traditional food in the world.
Still, the list fascinates me because of its unexpected diversity and, frankly, good taste.
Rounding out the top five are lomo saltado, a dish of stir-fried beef, vegetables and fried potatoes from Peru, and doner kebab, a dish of vertically grilled meat, typically lamb, from Turkey.
You will note that none of the top five dishes is from the United States. Neither, for that matter, is any of the top 10 (6. tacos al pastor; 7. saltibarscia; 8. gyoza dumplings; 9. cochinita pibil; 10. sarma).
You won’t hit a single American dish until you get to No. 21, barbecued ribs. Before that, you’ll find such worldwide popular favorites as gyros, risotto alla Milanese, lasagna alla Bolognese, tom yum soup, ceviche and pasta carbonara.
I just now realized this: Five of the top 20 dishes are from Turkey (adana kebap, doner kebab, sarma, dolma and kofte) and five are from Italy (margherita pizza, risotto, lasagna, tagliatelle al ragu and pasta carbonara).
Maybe that tells us something about where many of the TasteAtlas voters live.
The best place in the world to get barbecued ribs, incidentally, is listed as Killen’s Barbecue in Pearland, Texas. I have been to Pearland, and it did not seem like the sort of place that would have the best anything in the world.
The other top traditional foods in the world from America, according to the Turkish-Italian voters on TasteAtlas, are fajitas (No. 31, and they say the best version in the world is at Ninfa’s in Houston), cheeseburgers (No. 56, they say the best is at a Brooklyn restaurant called Emily), fried chicken (No. 86, at Prince’s Hot Chicken in Nashville, which is a specific kind of fried chicken), New England clam chowder (No. 87, at Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco), New York-style pizza (No. 89, at Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitana in Brooklyn), chili con carne (No. 98, at Woodyard Bar-B-Q in Kansas City) and jambalaya (No. 100, Jacques-Imo’s in New Orleans).
I can’t say I’m convinced by the website’s methodology, but I don’t disagree with the results. From gyros (No. 12) to bouillabaisse (criminally low at No. 97), from beef Wellington (No. 92) to peri peri chicken (No. 84), the list covers all the bases of worldwide regional food.
I haven’t had them all, and some I haven’t even heard of (khachapuri? Apparently it is a Georgian cheese bread topped with an egg).
But the list did what it is supposed to do: It made me hungry to try them all.
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Best foods in the world start with pizza