Trader Joe's Fan Favorite Italian Soda Doesn't Have Italian Origins

Centuries ago, Shakespeare asked, "What's in a name?" And if you find yourself strolling down the aisles of your local Trader Joe's, you might ask yourself the same question. Because, when it comes to the world of Italian soda, a name can be deceiving. 

After all, who would have thought that the beloved Trader Joe's Villa Italia Italian Blood Orange Soda isn't actually from Italy — at least when it comes to the origin of the type of soda itself, that is? That's right, folks. While the name might lead you to believe otherwise, Italian soda, in a germane sense, wasn't birthed in the beautiful country of Italy. Instead, historically and technically, it's a product of the brilliant minds at Torani, a San Francisco-based syrup company.

It all started in 1925, when Rinaldo and Ezilda Torre wanted to create something new and exciting for their customers. They combined flavored syrup with soda water and ice, creating a delicious concoction never seen before. The term "Italian soda" has been used ever since.

Even though Trader Joe's Villa Italia Italian Blood Orange Soda isn't authentically Italian — though, to wit, it's by all accounts manufactured in Italy — it is still a fan-favorite drink at the store. And, to be fair, Rinaldo and Ezilda Torre were Italian immigrants from the Tuscan city of Lucca, Italy. So, is soda in Italy really that different?

Real Italian sodas are aperitivos

Italy's post-World War II adoption of botanical-heavy sodas sparked the craze for bitter Italian aperitivos. Unlike the sugary syrups used in American Italian soda, these aromatic Italian drinks are infused with extracts of bitter botanicals. This gives them a complex flavor profile that's both sophisticated and refreshing.

One such Italian soda is Chinotto, a bittersweet soda made with extracts of orange trees found in places like Sicily and Liguria, Italy. Another is Crodino, a non-alcoholic aperitivo soda overflowing with bitter root-like notes and zesty citrus flavors. Meanwhile, as Talia Baiocchi, editor-in-chief at Punch, put it, St. Agrestis' Phony Negroni from New York City, "is the closest American expression of a classic Italian bitter soda."

These bitter aperitivo sodas offer a more complex and nuanced taste experience. They're often enjoyed in the evening as a way to unwind, socialize, and work up an appetite. So, how does Trader Joe's Villa Italia Italian Blood Orange Soda compare?

Get creative with Italian Blood Orange Soda

While Trader Joe's Italian soda isn't an aperitivo, per se, there are still several ways you can incorporate it into your evening meals or even as a mid-afternoon refresher on a warm summer day. One shopper wrote in a review for Insider that the soda is "fizzy and flavorful," while some Reddit users have testified that its taste is refreshing without being overwhelming; two even agreed it pairs perfectly with vodka for a boozy blood orange beverage.

The best part? This soda is not only delicious on its own, but it also pairs nicely with a variety of dishes. The zesty blood orange flavor complements savory notes, beautifully, and is ideal when paired with less acidic fruits. Try it with a rich goat cheese-topped pizza, grilled shrimp with citrus marinade, or even a savory salad – blood orange pairs really well with burrata and fennel.

So, cheers to Torani and their innovative creation of Italian soda, and cheers to Trader Joe's for bringing us this tasty blood orange-flavored treat. Take comfort in the fact that, while its direct predecessor may not be from the streets of Italy, it's still a delicious and refreshing beverage that's sure to satisfy. We'll be over here sipping on the soda, imagining ourselves under the Tuscan sun.