Food Policy

Shake Your Head at Italy's Crappy New Food Laws

Bans on drinking and eating in public and a host of other lousy rules could jeopardize Italy's culinary future.

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Italian street cafe
S. Schuetter/picture alliance / blickwinkel/S/Newscom

Italy is home to some of the best and most memorable meals I've ever eaten. I first visited in 1994, after graduating from college, and have returned on several occasions.

Some of my fondest memories are of sampling wonderful street food in Milan, drinking and dining al fresco amid the lights at night in Rome, and enjoying the amazing aromas of wonderful cooking foods that practically permeate the country.

That's why I'm disheartened to learn that Italy is increasingly cracking down on its food culture—including, specifically, the aforementioned Milanese street food, drinking and dining outdoors in Rome, and the grand aromas of the country's food.

Earlier this month, Milan banned food trucks from the city. Also in July, reports The Local, Rome imposed a series of bans on food and alcohol.

The Roman law prohibits grocers and other stores from selling alcohol after 10 p.m. and bars people from drinking alcohol from a glass in public at that same time. It also prohibits all alcohol consumption outdoors after midnight, and cuts off all alcohol sales after 2 a.m. Rome has also joined other Italian cities—notably Florence—in prohibiting picnicking at popular historic sites.

The first Saturday the alcohol ban was in place, Roman police issued more than three dozen tickets, which cost about $200 a pop. Many Romans are aghast.

"It limits our freedom as a business, and our free choice as responsible adults to be able to drink after 2 a.m.," the owners of Redrum, a restaurant and bar, told The Local. "[It is] a curfew which recalls decidedly sad periods of our history."

At least one U.S. publication doesn't see the big deal. Food & Wine—a magazine devoted to celebrating some of the specific things Rome has banned: food and wine—apparently doesn't see the big deal with the Roman law.

"Truthfully, it doesn't sound like the law should be difficult to abide," writes F&W's Elisabeth Sherman. "You'll still be able to enjoy Rome with respect, and a glass of wine in your hand, at least until two in the morning. By then, you should be in bed anyway."

This isn't all Italy's getting wrong. This month, the country's highest court ruled that restaurants that serve frozen food to customers without declaring so on their menus are guilty of civil fraud. A restaurateur who'd disputed the charges was fined more than $2,000.

"Even the mere availability of frozen food, if not identified as such on the menu, constitutes attempted commercial fraud," said the ruling. (Canned tomatoes are apparently still acceptable.)

In April, the same court ruled, the New York Post reports, that "cooking stinky food—like rich pasta sauces and fish—too close to neighbors" constitutes a crime. The court, in upholding a couple's fine of more than $2,000, declared cooking food that produces aromas which are subjectively "beyond the limits of tolerability" amounts to "olfactory molestation."

A creeping food xenophobia also appears to be taking hold in the country. Last year, Florence imposed restrictions on so-called "foreign" food from being sold in the historic city center. Fair Verona barred "ethnic" foods. This year, Venice banned new fast food outlets, focusing in part on kebab shops, in order to preserve Italian "decorum and traditions."

Add to these recent crackdowns the country's ban on cultivating GMO crops and the creeping takeover of the food sector by the mafia, and Italy's future as a culinary titan would seem to be in jeopardy.

It was only last summer that I wrote here about a new food law Italy had gotten right. In that case, Italy took action to combat food waste by rolling back complex government recordkeeping requirements and rules barring food from being shared. But one good law can't stand up to heaps of awful ones, which seems to be about all that's cooking in Italy these days.

NEXT: Reefer Madness at The New York Times

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  1. By then, you should be in bed anyway.

    Why?

    1. Because Elisabeth Sherman never had a job that ended at midnight or 2am. Everyone should be like her!!!

      1. Or else she’ll send people with guns to whip them in to line.

      2. A Food & Wine writer can’t conceive of someone staying up past 2am. So the bartender and waitstaff who serve her just curl up in the corner and go to sleep the second it turns 2

      3. Hey man, as a woman of color (she is 1/4 Indonesian), she needs to go to bed early to minimize those dark circles under her eyes.

        1. Looks like you picked up a new stalker.

    2. So much for staying up all through the night like Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg did in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.

  2. Since when have Italy’s traditions included decorum?

    1. Ehhhh, shut uppa you mouth!

      1. See, that’s what I mean. All the classy, tasteful, and decorous Italian traditions have moved to Joisey and some of the grungier bits of Nu Yawk.

  3. On the topic of food, is there any more vile thing than turkey bacon? It’s ruining my breakfasts as I bide my time until it’s gone and I can go back to real bacon.

    1. Turkey bacon is an abomination. But it is the perfect analogy for the quality of Reason’ s “journalism.”

    2. I’ve had beef bacon. Can’t recommend it.

    3. Yes, there is something more vile. Soy bacon. Turkey bacon is unpleasant. Soy bacon is an offense against God.

      1. And I’ll take your tofurkey bacon and raise you a magic vegan bacon grease.

        1. I wonder if this is a bot or if they follow you personally and post?

          1. Some of our actual trolls are barely distinguishable from bots.

    4. I would just go buy real bacon and throw the rest of the turkey bacon out.

      I tried that one time. After the first two slices; I knew I could not eat it. I tried to feed the rest of the package to my cats but even they turned their noses up to it.

    5. heres a hint cook all the Turkey bacon and accidently drop it on the floor. problem solved

    6. Just accidentally leave it on the counter overnight.

      “OOPS! I guess I’ll go get some bacon to replace this Jenny-O travesty!”

      Side note: I smoke my own pork belly to make bacon. It’s heaven!

  4. Maybe it’s a good sign that the mafia is infiltrating the food business. They can’t be any worse than the government in fucking it up.

    1. Hey, they’ve kept New York fed, and taken out the garbage too. Well, occasionally.

  5. I would be a great deal more concerned about Italy’s food culture if I believed that the Italians were likely to treat these,rules with anything but contempt.

  6. This looks like a job foooor…. Sol Invictus!

  7. ‘…Florence imposed restrictions on so-called “foreign” food from being sold in the historic city center.’

    Foreign foods like tomatoes, chile peppers and eggplant which were brought to Italy in the 16th century by thse pesky Spanish, Portuguese or Arabs.

    1. It’s amusing that right on the river in old-town Florence is:
      http://www.harrysbarfirenze.com/

      When we were there, the crowd was Italian, enjoying a ‘foreign restaurant’.
      (I think the steaks were trained to saddle at one time)

    2. It amused me that Verona barred ‘ethnic foods’ – what do they think Italian is? Heck, Italians consider Italians from the other side of the country to be a different ethnicity.

    3. Hope they send noodles right back to China where they belong.

  8. I thought Italy was still less uptight about taxing and regulating stuff than we were, in some ways at least.

    Is the EU pushing them into this nonsense?

    1. XenoZooValentine|7.22.17 @ 11:31AM|#
      “I thought Italy was still less uptight about taxing and regulating stuff than we were, in some ways at least.”

      Have some friends there, who are pretty much standard-issue euro-socs. The formal tax structure is horrid, but regardless of their leanings, EVERYBODY cheats the tax man ALWAYS.

      1. Its a very unproductive society. Great place to visit though. An old neighbor of mine moved from Italy when he was 20. After working here for a couple of years he started a few businesses that he still has decades later. He has a very strong entrepreneurial spirit. He told me a few years back that as much as he loves going back to visit family, he could never stand to live there again. Says the Italian people are just too lazy and complacent anymore.

  9. I was expecting to read this and become inflamed with Libertarian righteous indignation, but instead, I just got hungry.

    1. To me, those are the same thing.

        1. Neither are you.

        2. How pithy of you to not say.

  10. You’ve gotta be kidding me! We’re in the midst of planning a (most likely) once in a lifetime trip to Italy, and the relaxed food culture was supposed to have been part of it. Crap, should have done Italy first, and central Europe second.

  11. Earlier this month, Milan banned food trucks from the city.

    There may be some reasons for that you aren’t mentioning.

    1. Immigrants attacking food trucks! Reason staff writhing on the floor in cognitive dissonance seizures.

    2. so instead of protecting the vendors from violence they remove the victim of the violence. that how you solve problems by letting the violent determine what can be done. We already see that at universities in America where the violent shut down speech

  12. “You should be in bed anyway”

    Then whoever wrote this should be up and at it at 5am because that’s when I wake up. Which means you should be sleeping by 9pm. Do you see how that works you fucking piece of shit?

  13. I look forward to all of Italy being halal.

  14. How did Italy fool anyone that it has good food? It’s literally all cheap food for broke peasants, who used the same three ingredients over and over to hide the fact that they couldn’t afford real food. Pizza is basically a heated up sandwich, more specifically bread and leftovers, and pasta is beyond dreadful – despite all the pseudointellectual posturing that it is a classy food because it sounds foreign. Spaghetti, macaroni, linguine, penne, pronounced with exaggerated affection and a lisp for good measure, definitely sound better than noodles, but they do not taste any better. Everything else (with the exception of some lackluster meats harvested when the family horse keels over, and a few decent cheeses from the water buffalo, an ugly animal for those who can’t afford cows) is a variation on pizza or pasta. I know restaurants love Italian food, because it lasts longer than Twinkies and it’s an easy job to plop some sauce on it and throw it in the microwave, but how is the rest of the population so easily duped? I really need to study marketing…

    1. You must be German.

      1. German food is like English w vinegar poured on it. And the prices at German restaurants in NJ are outrageous.

      2. But I do have to add that German & Italian baked goods are really great?both pastry & bread. German, Baltic, Russian breads are tops to me, except for their tendency to give me diarrhea.

        1. Stop. You;re killing me. I just went on a low carb diet a few weeks ago. Now I want bread and pastry.

          Damn you, foul tempter.

          1. I tried an extremely low carb diet years ago to lose weight. Then found I was rapidly gaining weight & constipated.

            What does work for me to lose weight is anxiety. It’s not worth it.

    2. I rarely eat at Italian restaurants because I know the profit margin is so high & I could easily cook the same at home. Starting this winter I’ve even been making my own pizza, with homemade dough, and I like my product better than what I usually get at a pizzeria. However, nothing wrong w Italian cuisine as such. If you get a group of people together & need to serve food, Italian cuisine is a good choice because it’s so widely accepted. Like Budweiser, it may not be anybody’s favorite (although with Italian food in a sizable group it is likely to be a favorite of some), but the only ones who reject it will be those who’d be hard to make food for anyway (because they’re allergic to something, or they’re vegan, or whatever).

      It just doesn’t make sense to eat Italian food out, though.

      1. “It just doesn’t make sense to eat Italian food out, though.”

        I cannot make a veal scaloppini sec as tasty as a couple of Italian restaurants I frequent. Nor could any of them in Italy.

        1. The problem is that the Italian restaurant dishes I could not make at home are those I wouldn’t want to order anyway. I’m not interested in veal?it’s like beef with the life sucked out of it?& I’m not a fan of these peculiar Italian ways of preparing meats that seem to want to minimize them & overwhelm them w sauces and/or bland cheese.

      2. Oh, and there was a place in North Beach which made its own pasta; the wide noodles in the Lasagna couldn’t be beat.

        1. Now, see, lasagna is good, because it doesn’t give the impression of taking a fancy meat & burying it. But even there, the Greek version, pastitsio, is better. Plus, lasagna is a lot of trouble compared to various other noodle-sauce-hamburger-cheese combinations that taste just as good; lasagna just packs it more compactly.

          1. Nah, lasagna is far superior. At least when made competently. Pastitsio is lacking in the ZING department. The tomato sauce is much better in this format than the bechemel sauce.

      3. Sometimes you just don’t want to cook. I’m of Italian descent, and am a damn good cook. I make a chicken marsalla that’s been praised by everyone who’s ever gotten to eat it. I make amazing lasagne, and really really good spaghetti, linguine alfredo, bracciole, etc… I learned from my dad and grandma, and know what I’m doing in a kitchen.

        But sometimes I just don’t want to cook. There’s nothing wrong with eating at an Italian restaurant, as long as it’s a good one. And the ones I eat at aren’t any more expensive than say, Chili’s. You just have to know where you’re eating. I really don’t care what their markup is. I’m paying for the convenience of not having to spend 8 hours making sauce and then cleaning up afterward.

    3. You’ve obviously never actually eaten Italian food if that’s what you think. Italy has a varied food offering, and only a simpleton would think that your take is anywhere close to the truth.

      Let me guess: The only Italian food you’ve ever eaten was from a crappy strip mall restaurant run by Algerians, right? They probably got their sauce from Cisco and their meat from a can.

  15. Anyone else notice Buttplug, Tony, and the other trolls never comment when the horrible ideas they know are part and parcel of the ideals they espouse are put out on full display?

    1. Don’t bait the trolls. They might stink up the place with their presence if you do.

  16. Europe’s cultural and sociopolitical self-immolation continues apace. One can envision a point in the not-too-distant future when the Italian authorities will ban alcohol outright, as being “haram.” Prosciutto and sundry salamis will be next, for not being “halal.”

    Although, I can’t really blame the Italian politicians who are responsible for advancing these ordinances — after all, it’s far easier to prohibit the consumption of food and drink than it is to prohibit the entry of aliens into the country. It is a question of gumption and will, and, quite obviously, the will is lacking. The pols can promote all manner of nonsensical and inane laws, while avoiding dealing with far more serious and pressing issues.

  17. We picnicked on the steps of the Pietro de San Marco in 2000 with our Italian family (ie, the part of the family that stayed in Italy… my dad’s first cousin and her kids). It was a nice memory. It’s sad to see them getting rid of this. The restaurants in the area were hella expensive.

    When we were in Verona, lunch was a calzone from a street vendor. I think it cost about $5 with a bottle of water, and was delicious and filling.

    Again, I’d hate to see this practice go away. It helped keep Italy affordable, and let us budget a few really nice, high-end dinners at nice restaurants.

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  20. So italy’s basically become boston?

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