As I ordered the minestrone, the waitress looked at me as if I had strange things coming out of my head, and I finally had to point to the board so that she could see I really was ordering something from the menu. "Oh, you mean mine-strone?" She was incredulous at my pronunciation of "Min-est-roney", and seemed to think we were saying it that way to mock her.
That one seems pathological (the waitress simply had no clue), but I run into various Americanized pronunciations of foreign foods all the time, and it often amuses me.
Of course, there’s cruh-SANT for “croissant”. I never expect Americans to get French words right (try “bouillabaisse”, for another great one). The “croi” combination is hard, and I’m prepared for folks’ not knowing that the “nt” shouldn’t be pronounced distinctly, but makes the “a” nasal. But, really, we should at least be able to open up the “a” a bit, and say cwa-SAHNT; that’d be tolerable.
The Greek meat sandwich called γύρος, transliterated as “gyros”, isn’t a plural and is not like the first syllable of gyroscope. It’s not “a gyro”, but is pronounced, approximately, YEE-ros, with an unvoiced “s”. Order it that way, though, and unless the waiter is Greek you might get the same puzzled look that greeted D. at Dunkin’ Donuts.
But Italian foods can be the funniest, in part because Italian-Americans themselves have done a lot of Americanizing, adding that on to the southern Italian practice of not pronouncing the final vowels. “Manicotti” becomes ma-na-COTT, for instance, but that’s not going to cause any confusion. Try ordering a sfogliatella, though, as sfo-lya-TEL-la, and things are different — they pronounce it FOO-yuh-DELL.
And “pasta e fagioli”, a soup whose name means “pasta and beans”, is called pasta fa-ZOOL here in New York.
A colleague told me an amusing story, many years ago. Her pre-teen son invited a friend of his over for dinner, and the friend asked what they were having. “Pasta fazool,” was mom’s answer. Her son’s Italian-American friend was especially fond of pasta e fagioli, and enthusiastically accepted the invitation.
At dinner, my co-worker served up plates of elbow macaroni with ground beef and tomatoes — their non-Italian family just thought that “pasta fazool” was a fanciful name for pasta with stuff mixed into it, and had no idea that it was really a specific thing. “This isn’t pasta fazool!”, said the friend, disappointed.
He later got his mother to invite the family over for real pasta e fagioli, to show them how it’s supposed to be done.