"I knew the reaction to the show was going to be negative because it's about guidos, and some people think it's a derogatory term," she said. "But it's not -- it's basically [a term] to describe Italians who like to look good and be the center of attention, and there's nothing wrong with that."
Polizzi spoke to ABCNews.com prior to the airing of the second episode and did not comment on the punch.
"It just means you like to take care of yourself," said Polizzi, 22, who is originally from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and is currently taking time off from school to focus on her acting career.
She says she'd like her own MTV spinoff show that focuses on her search for love. In 10 years, Polizzi says she'd like to have the partying "out of her system and hopefully be settled down with a nice job and income and a beautiful Italian husband and beautiful Italian babies."
Polizzi herself has been the target of online critics, including a Facebook group dedicated to her called "Fans of Punching The Jersey Shore's Snooki in the Face."
She admitted the early criticism has been hard to take, but added that she hopes "everyone realizes that she's not a crazy, drunken idiot."
"I don't have to drink all the time to have fun. I'm a normal person too -- I just like to have fun at the Jersey Shore. I don't want everyone to think I have rehab. I want people think I'm a fun, nice girl," she said.
In the end, Polizzi says she's certain the disparaging remarks about her will make her a "stronger person," and adds that she thinks the show's harshest critics will continue tuning in.
"Bad publicity is really good publicity," said Polizzi. "Everyone who is hating on the show at the end of the day is still watching it, so I don't care what anyone says because I know deep down they're watching."
But while more than a million viewers reportedly tuned in for the first episode, the public backlash may be starting to hurt the program.
At least one advertiser -- Domino's Pizza -- asked the network to stop playing its ads during "Jersey Shore."
In a statement to ABCNews.com, Domino's spokesman Chris Brandon said that the "content" of the show "wasn't right for "Domino's."
"We have no issue with MTV, and we haven't pulled our advertising from the network. We just have chosen not to be on that particular show," said Brandon.
In response, MTV released a statement: "'Jersey Shore' may not be for every sponsor or advertiser and we understand that."
According to the network's Web site, MTV is simply continuing its tradition of focusing on "various subcultures," this time following a group of young adults living in a summer share in Seaside Heights, N.J. MTV says that by the end of the show viewers will see "there is more to these tan and buff individuals than hair gel."
But others aren't so sure, and worry that the lasting impression some viewers will have of Italian-Americans won't be a good one.
"The show does not depict anything close to the reality of Italian-Americans," said Philip Piccigallo, the national executive director of The Order of the Sons of Italy in America, a Washington D.C.-based origination that represents the Italian-American population.