An honest take on life and parenthood

RI Italian Tuna Salad recipe

on May 1, 2014

If you know me, you know I LOVE FOOD. You also know that I love to cook. One of my favorite activities is trying out the regional specialties of any new place I visit or live in. I moved to Rhode Island about two years ago, and discovered a foodie paradise, with some hidden gems in everyday dishes.

This tiny state is passionate about food, thanks to the rich mix of people who settled here: French Canadians, Irish, Italians, Dominicans, Portuguese, and Cape Verdeans, as well as newcomers from Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

We also have Johnson & Wales University, which features a wonderful culinary institute. It even offers one-day classes to dilettantes like me.  As a result, we have a seemingly endless supply of talented chefs at our fingertips, especially in Providence.

But this post is not about the gourmet food trucks and the fab eateries here in Providence. I am here to talk about the less glamorous but tasty options. Some of the local, non-pretentious delights include the following:

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

  • Del’s lemonade: A slushy lemon ice enjoyed in the summertime from trucks, convenience stores, and ice cream and lemonade stands. You can even buy packets to make it at home in the blender. (A Pooh favorite)
  • Coffee milk: An alternative to chocolate milk, it is whole milk flavored with sweet coffee syrup instead of chocolate syrup. The creative cooks here also use coffee syrup for cocktails, desserts, glazes, and sauces. Dave’s and Autocrat are two popular brands. Dave’s is the gourmet version at $8-$10/bottle.  Autocrat is the version of the people at $4/bottle, and it’s the brand I keep in my fridge.
  • Lobster rolls: A sandwich that features chunks of fresh lobster served in a white crusty roll, served either hot or cold.
  • Doughboys: Dinner plate sized slabs of fried dough sprinkled with sugar. You can buy the dough at the grocery store and make them at home, or buy them fresh and hot from kiosks at fairs and sporting events.
  • Pizza strips: Long strips of focaccia dough with marinara sauce on top, without cheese. Served room temperature, and available in delis, grocery stores, and bakeries. Another Pooh snack fave.
  • Kettle corn: Freshly popped popcorn with a subtle touch of sweetness and hint of salt.
  • Italian tuna salad: Tuna salad made with dark Italian tuna, olive oil and red wine vinegar. Found in delis and also made at home.
Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

I married into an Italian family in Providence, so I am mostly exposed to the regional Italian specialties, which are different from the Italian dishes I grew up with in the Philadelphia area.

Although my taste buds were trained on Philly-style Italian dishes, I enjoy the Providence versions as well for the new takes on old favorites.

Today, I am sharing a simple recipe for Italian Tuna Salad with you, because 1) I love it and 2) it is easy.

To the Rhode Islanders who read my blog, it may seem silly that I am writing about something so commonplace, but non-locals will appreciate its fresh simplicity. It is a refreshing change from the typical American tuna salad you find that is loaded with mayonnaise and often lacking flavor.

You can eat Italian tuna salad over greens, on bread (preferably a crusty roll, but toast is fine too), on crackers, or straight. Your choice.

Important note: Pay attention to the type of tuna used. DO NOT use a can of standard tuna in water. It simply won’t taste the same. Use Italian tuna packed in olive oil – the meat is darker (do tuna have thighs?) and richer in taste. Here are some brands to look for, which you can either find in the Italian specialty section of your grocery store or in the canned tuna section.



Here is the recipe:

Italian tuna salad (2 servings or 1 serving for one hungry person)


  • 1 6 oz. can Italian tuna packed in olive oil (it should say “tonno” on the can – you don’t want chunk white albacore, and you don’t want it packed in water)
  • Chopped onion – 1 teaspoon or so
  • Good olive oil – 1 teaspoon or so, add more to taste
  • Red wine vinegar – 2 tablespoons
  • Celery – about half a stalk, chopped
  • Pitted black olives, sliced – about 4-5 whole olives, sliced, or 1 tablespoon pre-sliced
  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper


1)      Open can of tuna and drain off the oil

2)      In a small mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients above with a spoon

3)      Adjust vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste

4)      Serve over greens, or on a hearty roll for a nice sandwich. Enjoy!

Optional add-ins:

  • Iceberg lettuce: My mother-in-law adds chopped iceberg lettuce to the tuna for volume and cool crunch. If you add lettuce, just keep in mind that you should eat all of the salad the same day. Otherwise, the lettuce will wilt by the next day from the oil and vinegar.
  • Capers: I added about a teaspoon of capers to the recipe on a whim – an excellent addition to the core recipe, if I may say so myself.

If you make this, let me know what you think of it in the comments below. And tell me about your own local Rhode Island favorites!

Special thanks goes to Angela D’Amico, my mother-in-law, who is always generous with her Italian recipes in spite of the fact that I am not a blood relative, ha ha.

Now, please excuse me while I go eat my sammich’.

Italian Tuna Salad

Italian Tuna Salad


One response to “RI Italian Tuna Salad recipe

  1. Tuna has been my kryptonite during this pregnancy… now I must try this recipe. I’ver never tried tuna in oil- I shall evolve!


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