Is Cuisine Still Italian Even if the Chef Isn’t?
 
Published: April 7, 2008

Correction Appended

ROME — Last month, Gambero Rosso, the prestigious reviewer of restaurants and wine, sought out Rome’s best carbonara, a dish of pasta, eggs, pecorino cheese and guanciale (cured pig cheek; for the aficionados, pancetta is not done) that defines tradition here. 
上個月,權威的餐廳與美酒評論家甘貝羅‧羅索找尋羅馬最好吃的奶油培根義大利麵,一盤義大利麵、雞蛋、義大利羊奶起司、煙燻豬腮幫肉,成就當地的招牌傳統菜式。

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Marco Di Lauro for The New York Times

Chef Nabil Haj-Hassan shows his award-winning carbonara pasta in the kitchen of the Roscioli Restaurant in Rome.

Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

A night in Trastevere, the ancient artisans quarter of Rome, now a center for bars and restaurants.

In second place was L’Arcangelo, a restaurant with a head chef from India. The winner: Antico Forno Roscioli, a bakery and innovative restaurant whose chef, Nabil Hadj Hassen, arrived from Tunisia at 17 and washed dishes for a year and a half before he cooked his first pot of pasta. 
亞軍是L’Arcangelo餐廳,主廚來自印度。獲得冠軍的Antico Forno Roscioli是一家烘焙坊和創意十足的餐廳,主廚納比爾‧哈山17歲時來自突尼西亞,在下廚烹煮生平第一鍋義大利麵之前,洗了一年半碗盤。

“To cook is a passion,” said Mr. Hassen, now 43, who went on to train with some of Italy’s top chefs. “Food is a beautiful thing.”
「烹飪是一種熱愛,」現年43歲的哈山後來曾向一些義大利頂級名廚學藝。「食物是美好的事物。」

Spoken like an Italian. But while much of the rest of the world learned about pasta and pizza from poor Italian immigrants, now it is foreigners, many of them also poor, who make some of the best Italian food in Italy (as well as some of the worst and everything between). 
說話語氣像是義大利人。從前,世上其他地方的人大多從貧窮的義大利移民處初識義大利麵和披薩,現在卻是外籍兵團在義大利燒得一手道地好菜,當中許多人一樣很窮。

With Italians increasingly shunning sweaty and underpaid kitchen work, it can be hard now to find a restaurant where at least one foreigner does not wash dishes, help in the kitchen or, as is often the case, cook. Egyptians have done well as pizza makers, but restaurant kitchens are now a snapshot of Italy’s relatively recent immigrant experience, with Moroccans, Tunisians, Romanians and Bangladeshis at work. 
義大利人對於在汗流浹背且報酬不足的廚房工作愈來愈敬而遠之,現在餐廳都得用外勞洗碗、在廚房幫忙,最常見的是掌廚,鮮少例外。埃及人的披薩一直做得不錯,現在的餐廳廚房則有摩洛哥人、突尼西亞人、羅馬尼亞人和孟加拉人打理,可以大概反映義大利晚近外來移民的狀況。

That fact itself may not be surprising: On one level, restaurants in Italy, a country that even into the 1970s exported more workers than it brought in, now more closely mirror immigrant-staffed kitchens in much of Europe.
事實本身或許不足為奇:某個程度上,義大利即使在1970年代初,出國工作者仍多於前來工作的外勞,當地的餐廳現在不過是更準確反映出歐洲大部分國家餐廚員工皆是外勞的實況。

But Italians take their food very seriously, not just as nourishment and pleasure but also as the chief component of national and regional identity. Change is not taken lightly here, especially when the questions it raises are uncomfortable: Will Italy’s food change — and if so, for the worse or, even more disconcertingly, for the better? Most Italian food is defined by its good ingredients and simple preparation, but does it become less distinct — or less Italian — if anyone can prepare it to restaurant standards? Does that come at some cost to national pride?
可是義大利人非常嚴肅看待自己的食物,在營養與口腹之欲之外,更是民族和地域認同的主要成分。這裡的人對於改變並未等閒視之,尤其是當引起的問題令人不快:義大利食物是否會改變─倘若如此,會變得更壞?甚至更讓人尷尬的是,變得更好?大多數義大利食物的特色在於好的材料和簡單的準備過程,但是否變得沒那麼獨特─或者沒那麼義大利─是否任何人調理義大利食物都能達到餐廳的水平?如此是否有損民族尊嚴?

“If he is an Egyptian cook, nothing changes — nothing,” said Francesco Sabatini, 75, co-owner of Sabatini in Trastevere, one of Rome’s oldest neighborhoods. His restaurant is considered one of the city’s most conservative, serving classic Roman dishes like oxtail, yet 7 of his 10 cooks are not Italian. 
「如果廚師換成埃及人,煮出來的菜色不會有任何改變─完全沒差,」位在特拉斯提弗列區的沙巴提尼餐廳的老闆之一,75歲的法蘭西斯科‧沙巴提尼表示,該區是羅馬歷史最悠久的街坊。他的餐廳被視為羅馬市區保存原味能力數一數二的餐廳,供應牛尾之類典型羅馬菜餚,但十個廚師當中有七位不是義大利人。對沙巴提尼而言,廚師的出身不是問題,而是訓練過程(他餐廳的師傅得當五年學徒),外加保存義大利的烹飪傳統。

For Mr. Sabatini, the issue is not the origin of the cook but the training — his chefs apprentice for five years — and keeping alive Italy’s culinary traditions, which he defines as “the flavors of your mother’s kitchen.”

“That’s why I’m here,” he said. “If not, I’d just go to the beach.”
「這是我為何留在這裡,」他說。「假如不是為了這個,我就到海灘去了。」

But in a debate likely to grow in the coming years, others argue that foreign chefs can mimic Italian food but not really understand it.
但是在一個未來幾年可能繼續升高的爭論中,另一方主張外籍廚師也許能複製義大利食物的色香味,卻不能真正了解義大利美食的精髓。

“Tradition is needed to go forward with Italian youngsters, not foreigners,” said Loriana Bianchi, co-owner of La Canonica, a restaurant also in Trastevere, which hires several Bangladeshis, though she does the cooking. “It’s not racism, but culture.”
「傳統需要由義大利的年輕人推向前,而非外國人,」卡諾尼卡餐廳的老闆之一羅莉安娜‧畢安奇表示,她的餐廳也位於特拉斯提弗列區,還請了好幾個孟加拉人,但是她自己掌廚。「這不是種族歧視,而是文化差異。」

While much of Italy’s best food is prepared at home, Ms. Bianchi despairs at the difficulty of finding people to do the same in restaurants. (There is even a greater shortage, experts say, of Italian waiters.) “It’s tiring and the hours are very long,” she said.

But it has been an undeniable boon to Italy’s new immigrants. Twelve years ago, Abu Markhyyeh, a young Jordanian, finished an apprenticeship with a Neapolitan pizza maker, borrowed money from his Italian mother-in-law, then opened his own pizzeria in Milan, Da Willy, after his nickname here.

He did well, in part because he made the pizzas bigger but kept the prices low. Now Mr. Markhyyeh, 41, presides over an untraditional pizza empire. He has 11 restaurants in Milan, 4 in Jordan, 2 in Cyprus and franchises in Dubai, Beirut, Sharm el Sheik in Egypt and now in Shanghai. 


Despite this success — and thousands of loyal Italian customers — he said he has never felt fully accepted. “Italians say they aren’t racist, but then they say to me that in Milan, I have found America,” he said, referring to a slightly insulting expression for finding success without really working for it. “It makes me feel lousy.”

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Dave Yoder for The New York Times

Abu Markhyyeh, 41, a Jordanian, the owner of the pizzeria Da Willy, has 11 restaurants in Milan, 4 in Jordan, 2 in Cyprus and franchises in Dubai, Beirut, Sharm el Sheik in Egypt and in Shanghai. Despite his success, he says he has never felt fully accepted.

 

Qunfeng Zhu, 30, a Chinese immigrant who opened a coffee bar in Rome’s center, has had a similar experience even though he makes an authentic espresso in a classic Italian atmosphere (overlooking a few bottles of Chinese liquor). 
30歲的中國移民朱群峰(譯音)在羅馬市中心開了一間咖啡吧,在標準的義大利環境調配正統的義式濃縮咖啡。「有些客人上門看到老闆是華人,掉頭就走,」他說。但是他說過去這幾年,類似情形比較少發生,是義大利開始接受其他種類食物的一個跡象。

“Some people come in, see we are Chinese and go away,” he said.

But in the last few years, he said, that happens less frequently, one sign that Italy is opening up — if slowly — to other kinds of food. Twenty years ago it was hard to find much beyond the occasional Chinese restaurant. Now the choices are broader, especially for Asian food like Japanese or Indian.

“We live in a globalized society — there are so many people represented in our city,” said Maria Coscia, the commissioner of Rome’s public schools. So much so that last year the city began a program of serving a meal from different countries once a month. But many parents complained loudly.

“The first time we did it, the menu was Bangladeshi,” she said. “That was a problem.”

As a result of the complaints, the program was tweaked slightly and now at least one dish in four on those days — even grade-school students eat well here — will remain Italian. Now it is largely accepted, though the program’s Web site includes this reminder for the still wary: “In the total of the 210 school days, when lunches are served, only eight days are dedicated to the menus from other countries.”

With this mixing of cultures only in its early days, there seems to be no major shift in Italian cuisine, even if foreigners are doing the cooking more and more. Unlike in France, where foreign flavors have blended well over time with native ones, attempts here at some fusion of Italian and other cuisines have not caught on. There is, as yet, no equivalent to curry in Britain.

Still, there seems some leakage. Food experts say that foreign chefs, here and there, add spices not often used in Italy, like coriander and cumin. Couscous and vanilla are no longer novelties.

But there is a question whether those changes, so far subtle, are happening as a conscious effort to be creative, or simply foreign chefs reverting to the flavors they know from home.

Pierluigi Roscioli, a member of the family that runs the restaurant that won the best carbonara award, said there was a risk that tradition would slowly erode if Italian chefs did note oversee those foreign ones who had less training. 
皮耶路易基‧羅斯奇歐尼家族經營的餐廳,曾贏得最佳奶油培根義大利麵獎,他說,義大利廚師若不好好監督訓練較少的外籍廚師,義大利美食傳統有慢慢流失之虞。

“Without supervision, they tend to drift toward what is in their DNA,” he said. “When it’s by choice, it’s great, but not when it happens because someone isn’t paying attention.”
「沒有監督,他們比較會順著自己的DNA去發展,」他說。「如果是出於選擇,那很好,但如果是因為某人沒有注意而發生,就不好了。」

Given the current pace of change, he and other experts estimate that cooks in low- to middle-level restaurants in Italy may be almost entirely non-Italian within a decade. But that trend coincides with another, in which Italians are showing a rejuvenated interest in the best of their own food, as shown by the popularity of groups like Gambero Rosso, which publishes a magazine and books reviewing wine and restaurants, and the Slow Food movement, which emphasizes fresh and local products.

Four years ago, the International School of Italian Cooking opened in Parma, arguably Italy’s best food city, and is attracting a new generation of Italian chefs interested more in high-end cooking than the home-style cooking in local restaurants that has made Italian food popular around the world.

Its executive manager, Andrea Sinigaglia, said it was possible that Italian restaurants would soon divide into two camps, with elite restaurants staffed by Italian chefs, and trattorias and restaurants aimed more at tourists run by foreign chefs.

But with Italy changing, he said, its food will inevitably change, too, though his school is partly aimed at keeping the basics — local products, fresh ingredients, simplicity in preparation — intact.

“We cannot defend a recipe,” he said. “We cannot stop progress. We can indicate, pinpoint, what are the real important things. And the rest is creativity.”

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