Sunday, April 29, 2007

When Italian Food Isn't Italian Enough

The Italian Academy of Cooking has launched a scathing attack on the standard of Italian restaurants abroad.

It says two-thirds of the restaurants they reviewed mistook the ingredients or the preparations.

Italians are very proud of their cooking and their recipes, rooted in many different regions and traditions.

But when they travel, most stay well away from Italian food and with good reason: some 60% of Italian restaurants abroad are awful, the academy says.

The Italian Academy of Cooking was founded in 1953 to protect the reputation of Italian cuisine.

Since then, millions of Italians have emigrated, taking with them their recipes to every part of the world.

Recipes betrayed

But, these days, Italian cooking is not always authentic.

In some takeaway restaurants the classic pizza has mutated into pineapple cocktails and the spaghetti is often a poor stringy impersonation of the real thing, the academy says.

Benito Fiore, who reviewed 320 British Italian restaurants, says only 20 were of a high standard, while 200 were poor.

Mr Fiore says there are very simple reasons why so many are failing.

"The restaurant is not owned by an Italian person. The second chef is usually not Italian," he begins.

"The restaurant manager is not Italian and they don't use mainly Italian produce and they don't serve Italian wines," he adds.

Whether it's ragu, tiramisu or plain old pasta, the original recipes are often betrayed.

Many chefs outside the country are changing and adapting dishes to local tastes.

The academy says it welcomes this innovation and it praises some "commendable" efforts to improve traditional Italian cuisine.

But the general conclusion of this report is that Italian food abroad just does not taste like Mamma's.

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