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An Immigration Problem with Italian Food


Uh, oh! There is a big immigration problem occurring in Italy, specifically with Italian food being served in Italian restaurants. You see, it might not be Italian food after all. Why? Well, that’s where the immigration problem comes in. It seems that some of the best Italian restaurants in Italy are being run by — horror! — immigrants! What in the world could be worse than that, at least from the perspective of Italians who want genuine Italian food served in their Italian restaurants in Italy?

According to an New York Times article entitled “Is Cuisine Still Italian Even If the Chef Isn’t?” Gambero Rosso, a prominent reviewer of restaurants, recently awarded an Italian restaurant named Antico Forno Roscioli a first-place award for best carbonara, a famous Italian dish.

The problem is that the chef for this winning restaurant, Nabil Hadj Hassen, is an immigrant from Tunisia, who arrived in Italy at age 17. After washing dishes for more than a year, he went on to train with some of Italy’s best chefs. Can Hassen’s carbonara really be considered genuine Italian food given that he is an immigrant from Tunisia?

Also, should we just ignore the fact that Hassen displaced some potential future Italian chef when he began washing dishes on arriving from Tunisia? Apparently the problem is a big one because the article states, “With Italians increasingly shunning sweaty and underpaid kitchen work, it can be hard to find a restaurant where at least one foreigner does not wash dishes, help in the kitchen or, as is often the case, cook.”

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Rosso awarded the second-place award for best carbonara to L’Arcangelo, whose head chef is from … India!

Frencesco Sabatini, 75, who owns a restaurant in Rome, says that in his opinion the national origin of the chef is irrelevant. What counts is the training and “keeping alive Italy’s culinary traditions.”

Others argue, however, that “foreign chefs can mimic Italian food but not really understand it.” Loriana Bianchi, co-owner of La Canonica in Trastevere says, “Tradition is needed to go forward with Italian youngsters, not foreigners.”

The article points out that the restaurant business “has been an undeniable boon to Italy’s new immigrants.” For example, twelve years ago a young Jordanian immigrant named Abu Markhyyeh, after apprenticing with a Neopolitan pizza maker, decided to open his own pizzeria. Today, he owns 11 restaurants in Milan, 2 in Cyprus, and franchises in Dubai, Egypt, and Shanghai. Given his success, no doubt his customers are pleased as well.

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Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.