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"culinary racism"

Did anyone else read in this issue of Time Magazine " What they are banning in Tuscany" ?

Looks as if the city council of Lucca , Italy's Tuscany region, is taking a big step to "safeguard Lucca's traditional cultural Identity"
They passed a rule denying licenses for any non-Italian restaurants in town!
Now In Lucca , Thanks to this rule,you will not find kebabs,Peking duck and even the almighty Big Mac is out! McDonald's banned ! Therefore being dubbed as "culinary racism"

Now I'm usually against racism of any kind <unless you consider my hatred against ugly shoes such as crocks racist> I say BRAVO LUCCA BRAVO !
Salute Lucca, and here's to tradition.
What do you think?

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  1. My understanding of the measure is that it limits what types of eateries can exist within the walls of the old city, home to approximately 10% of the city's residents. So, it would seem to be simply a zoning ordinance restricting what kinds of businesses can exist in the old city as opposed to an citywide ban on non-Lucchese restaurants.

    In my (American) city, we have designated historic districts where the municipality places restrictions on what modifications can be made to the exteriors of homes within the districts. It sounds like Lucca is simply trying to establish maintain a more or less "historically correct" district focusing on cuisine, rather than architecture.

    I can see where the people making the racism argument are coming from, but I think they are resorting to a bit of hyperbole here.

    5 Replies
    1. re: hohokam

      If you are talking about having select restaurants within the historic (tourist) district that will reflect the history then I think it's fine. If it's just a way to keep McD's or KFC or something like that out, then no, it's not fine.

      As for the argument that Walmart and McD's are "Ruining the landscape" perhaps they should roll up their sleeves and get busy at city hall trying to pass building appearance codes. There are plenty of low key McD's and WM's in other parts of the country.


      1. re: Davwud

        "If you are talking about having select restaurants within the historic (tourist) district that will reflect the history then I think it's fine. If it's just a way to keep McD's or KFC or something like that out, then no, it's not fine."

        Davwud, your post is utter nonsense. Lucca seems to want to maintain some sense of culinary and architectural beauty. They don't want chain restaurants or fast food in certain parts of town. You are not entitled to decide what is, or what is not, "fine" for them. And it looks like the folks at Lucca city hall have already rolled up their sleeves and gotten busy.

        And for the record, folks, loathing corporate food pushers is not "racism". It's "sanity".

        1. re: uptown jimmy

          If you read the rest of the comments in this thread, not to mention the original post, you'll note that Lucca's ordinance is not about protecting the town center from "corporate food pushers," but rather ethnic food pushers. Hence the cries of "racism." No need to go ad hominem on Davwud.

          1. re: JungMann

            I was replying to Davwud's post, nothing else. I meant what I wrote.


    2. More cities should do this. McDonald's is an eyesore in Sante Fe and Wall Mart has ruined the landscape of Taos. And has anyone been to Phoenix lately? Enough with the boxes and strip malls!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Leper

        Phoenix is a pretty different story. There is little left of "old Phoenix" and what is left isn't that old. So, it's hard to figure out where such a heritage zone would be located and what specific cultural identity(ies) would be up for consideration.

        Of course, this second part is true for most medium-to-large cities in the United States. After all, we pride ourselves on the fact that our country is a destination for immigrants from many cultural backgrounds. As such, most of our cities have tended to be much more heterogeneous and fluid in terms of ethnic/cultural makeup than many cities in Europe.

        I find it hard to imagine zoning restrictions in Phoenix along the lines of those in Lucca, and I would expect debates over any such proposal to be very heated. Which part of town is to be limited to Mexican restaurants? Which part of town is to be limited to O'odham (Papago) restaurants? Which regional Mexico cuisines are to be considered for this kind of protection? Or maybe there's will be just one overarching "heritage zone"? Which cultural traditions can be represented in this zone? Who gets to decide?

        I'm no fan of the big box and strip mall patterns of development, but to a large extent that is a separate issue. Indeed, some of my favorite restaurants are in less-than-picturesque settings, but in the end, I'd rather my local restaurateurs put capital into producing top notch chow than into building or rehabbing monuments to Phoenix's glorious(?) history.

      2. i'm against it.

        i have no love for mcdonalds, but mcdonalds is not the point.
        cultures evolve. i'm for that.

        1. From my understanding, its only in the "historical" section. I completely concur with hohokam - "resorting to a bit of hyperbole." Unless a McDonald's is historical, it doesn't make sense. It's different, but know I don't want a McDonald's setting up shop in St. Augustine next to the Oldest Schoolhouse. How different is it that than setting up state-owned lands or parks?

          1. How is it "racist"? Ethnocentric, maybe. But the discriminatory provisions have nothing to do with race, only ethnicity. "Racism" is not synonymous with "discrimination"!

            1. From The Times (UK):


              "Massimo Di Grazia, the city spokesman, said that the ban was intended to improve the image of the city and to protect Tuscan products. “It targets McDonald’s as much as kebab restaurants,” he added.

              There is confusion, however, over what is meant by ethnic. Mr Di Grazia said that French restaurants would be allowed. He was unsure, though, about Sicilian cuisine. It is influenced by Arab cooking. "

              No surprise the Northern League is applauding this move.

              6 Replies
              1. re: PorkButt

                Sorry, but nothing is more depressing than visiting these beautiful historic cities in Italy and being met with the hideous site of McDonald's. That is NOT cultural evolution.

                1. re: MagnumWino

                  macdonalds is an easy target. but how about the ethiopian descended man whose family has lived there for 60 years who wants open a place. or for that matter the ethiopian who arrived there last year? they would be as banned as the macdonalds.

                  and - if the local residents want a mcdonalds, they have every right to one.

                  1. re: MagnumWino

                    I think this law is only half related to McDonald's. Part of it is about maintaining history, which is fine. I have no problem banning chain stores or fast food. However, the wording of the law will lead to no new restaurants of any kind with "colored" influence. I use a racist term purposefully there. Having lived in northern Italy for several months, it would not surprise me at all if this law was in part created to disenfranchise "ghosts" and their kin. More than just wanting McDonald's out of the historic center, I think the city wants non-traditional people out of the historic center as well; namely North-Africans and Arabs. If the McDonalds of the world were all Lucca was worried about it would be easy to impose architecture regulations, signage regulations and bans on franchises and chains.

                    1. re: gastrotect

                      So Sauerkraut and Chacuterie are ok, but Falafel isn't. My Gawd, what will they do when Turkey is admitted to the EU? Sounds like much "adieu" about nothing. As i said, architecture I can understand; controlling menus is a lot more fluid.

                    2. re: MagnumWino

                      I brought up the city spokesman's quote because he mentioned the Arab influence in Sicily as being a negative. I wonder what his opinion is on the Austrian influence in northern Italian cooking. Likely positive given the allowance for French restaurants.

                      1. re: PorkButt

                        that's ok because they are whi...er... european. nothing like bigotry or racism to see here.. move along....

                  2. I think the "fun stage " will be phase II when some council is formed to define just what is meant by "historically correct" food. Will that be Italian, French, some Gallic thing, or Roman Garum? No New world veggies?

                    Architecture is one thing, but I think policing the menus would become a nightmare, primarily because these bureaucrats will never be able to make up their minds. And then watch the EU in Strasbourg get involved like they did in the UK when they (the EU) banned certain flavors of crisps (chips) in the UK!

                    1. There are no fast food restauarants in the Wallowas in Oregon. Banned. I like it because I'm going to retire there (if I evder do). Selfish I know.

                      I saw the first McDonald's in China - on Tiannamen Square - and thought it was disgusting and funny. But mad because it displaced the noodle shops on the street that had been behind the square.

                      There are McDonalds and Pollo Campero stores in the middle of Antigua, Guatemala - with toned down architecture. Not a problem.

                      There is a very local "McDonalds" with hand painted sign and arches in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Hilarious. Don't know what they serve.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        I actually walked right by the Golden Arches in Salzburg the first time without noticing it. As you may know, Salzburg has "character signs" outside of most places to tell what they do. This goes back to a period when folks were illiterate. Some of them are nicely ornate...as is the one for the Golden Arches, which i have a picture of somewhere buried in a mass of photos (the old chemical-process kind, which presumably will be allowed in Lucca but not the digital kind)

                        1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                          Artists renderings only, no cameras.


                      2. While McDonald's might hold popular sway as a super villain amongst a select few, this Italian law has far less to do with protecting an historical district from invasion by the multinational than it does with addressing very deep issues of immigration, EU expansion and cultural identity. This is a village seeking to protect itself from another Invasion: the creeping onslaught of flawed immigration policy, extranational forces via Brussels and a diluted sense of identity.

                        This is not some sleepy village fighting against Big Business. Lucca has made itself a battleground in a fight against "The Other," in this case forces that contribute to the diluted sense of Italianness mainly in the form of non-European immigrants. I don't think it helpful to lob loaded terms like "racism;" the cultural issues with which EU nations are currently grappling are lot thornier and complicated as political correctness has deferred a very necessary internal debate and unfortunately led to a resurgence of the type of nationalism that the EU was supposed to erase.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: JungMann

                          I think it really just depends on your definition of racism. You may not want to say "racism", but what about discrimination and segregation? Those things are certainly being sought, in this case at least. And this sounds a bit like the argument of the Spanish football and Formula One fans who insisted that blackface, banana tossing and monkey sounds weren't racist, they were just cultural differences.
                          I agree that some of these nations are facing internal struggles over immigration coupled with rising nationalist tendencies, but I'm not sure what political correctness had to do with it.

                          1. re: gastrotect

                            Integrationists and multiculturalists for too long characterized any policy position contrary to theirs, economic immigration control, assimilation, asylum reform, etc. as racist and/or xenophobic. Even alarm over the economic implications of the low birthrate of native-born citizens has met cries of racial hygienics. The language of cultural identity and defining European-ness among the governing elite has been largely accomodationist (the recent fracas regarding Turkey notwithstanding), even as the average European perceives this as a watering down of their culture to the point of meaninglessness.

                            The response has been a building backlash to the discrepancy between the political milieu of parliamentarians and lived experience of the average European. 10 years ago had Europe seriously considered the implications of immigration policy (not to mention the supernational arrangement of EU bodies) without resorting to name-calling, they would not have so radicalized their citizenry.

                        2. I saw a news report a while back about Italians lamenting the fact that most Italians don't want to work in or own restaurants anymore, not even Italian restaurants. So Ethiopians and other immigrants are flooding into the restaurant business to fill the void.

                          This law is interesting. I wonder if it will be a precursor for a law banning non-Italians from running or cooking ITalian food. Given the xenophobic hysteria in Italy and the enlightened PM that they have, it would not surprise me if it came to that.

                            1. re: RicRios

                              Ah. Sorry I am a new poster, better do my homework, eh?
                              I actually posted this in the wrong section and a moderator must have moved it.
                              Thanks for letting me pick your brains. Some excellent points have been made.

                              1. re: Ciao Italia Foodie

                                Moderators can possibly combine now both threads?
                                It would make for an easier read.

                                1. re: RicRios

                                  Our software doesn't offer that function.

                            2. I see it as less about them protecting their culture and heritage than trying to make their town into a museum that ignores current demographic and cultural trends in their city.

                              Locals don't want more Italian restaurants in the area. If they did, people would open more up naturally. They obviously want cheap, convenient, and ethnic. But I guess the large percentage of "un-Italian" locals don't get a say in the matter.

                              I'm glad I don't live in a place which bends over backwards to appeal to foreign tourists who visit just to see a kitchy caricature of their stereotypes of what my area should be like instead of what it's like today.

                              In a way, towns like Lucca are just as fake as Las Vegas.