Along the Tuscan coast, Forte dei Marmi is a leafy beachfront retreat for politicians, writers and artists, has denied accusations that the ban is small minded and racist.
The decree was passed unanimously this week by the town’s council, who said that ban also applied to more familiar “foreign” businesses such as English-style pubs and burger joints.
The ban is the latest expression of a culinary patriotism that is extending across the country, as Italians struggle to hold onto centuries-old cooking traditions in the face of immigration and globalisation.
The centre-Left mayor of the town, Umberto Buratti said, “This measure has nothing to do with xenophobia – it is about protecting and valuing our culture,
“We would also say no to American hamburger chains.”
They hope that the ban will encourage the survival of Tuscan and Italian cuisine, although existing “ethnic” restaurants will not be shut down.
The mayor said, “There’s a sushi takeaway, although it’s not in the town centre,you will still be able to eat ethnic food, we just want to limit the number of outlets.” Forte dei Marmi has become popular in recent years with wealthy tourists from Russia and consequently a restaurant serving Russian food opened recently.
However, despite the millions of pounds those holidaymakers from Russia drive into the economy each summer by providing new jobs, overnight hotel stays, the purchase of restaurant insurance and supplies, no more of these restaurants will be allowed.
The ban on ‘ethnic’ food appears to have won resounding support from locals.
A Tuscan man wrote on the website of a local newspaper, “Bravo for having the balls to stop the tide of foreign food invading Italy.
Even with a growing population of immigrants from Latin America, Asia and Africa, the majority of Italians are extremely conservative in their approach towards unfamiliar food, preferring to stick to pasta, pizza and polenta.
According to a survey released this week by Coldiretti, the national agricultural association, over 40% have never eaten foreign food such as curries, kebabs, and sushi.
The report said, “Notwithstanding the rapid spread of restaurants offering ethnic food, only seven per cent of Italians eat on a regular basis in a foreign takeaway and only five per cent in a foreign restaurant.”
Forte dei Marmi is not the first Italian town to ban food from foreign restaurants – the nearby town of Lucca, which is famous for its historic churches and medieval walls, attracted allegations of racism when it did the same ban in 2009.