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Italy Says Britain Can't Identify Real Parmesan

Italian food entrepreneur Oscar Farinetti says the British public’s enjoyment of “imitation” parmesan and cheap pasta is driving down costs of real Italian fare.
Phoebe Hurst
London, GB
Photo via Flickr user David McSpadden

We're all a little guilty of abusing Italian food. The soggy panini you grab when the lunch place is out of the falafel salad you actually wanted. Not giving enough care and attention to that lazy, Sunday night spag bol. (We won't mention the pizza place you only hit up from the wrong side of a round of tequila shots).

Well, it seems Italy is no longer cool with our bad-boyfriend treatment of its cuisine. Earlier this year, Italian Parliament hit back at British pubs for serving Prosecco out of ungainly kegs and in March, Italian farmers voiced protest at Crimea for selling counterfeit versions of their sacrosanct sparkling wine. Even Kraft isn't safe from the wrath of spurned Italian culinary heritage. Last year, the European Union called on the food giant to stop calling its cheese "Parmesan."


READ MORE: UK Pubs Are Treating Prosecco Like Beer, and Italy Is Pissed

The latest group in the firing line for not giving Italian food the respect it deserves? Oh, just the whole of the United Kingdom and it's garlic bread-shovelling ways.

As The Daily Telegraph reports, Oscar Farinetti, founder of Italian online food shop and restaurant Eataly, has criticised the UK's obsession with cheap pasta and "imitation" Parmesan, suggesting it has made Brits unable to appreciate authentic Italian food.

"It's important that people start to recognise real Italian products. Foreign citizens must learn what is real pasta, real extra virgin olive oil, real Parmigiano Reggiano, and not the imitation," he said.

According to Farinetti, whose company has Italian food outlets in New York, Chicago, and Dubai, slovenly British palates are bad for more than just their owners. He blames inferior "Italian" products (yes, we're looking at you with the weeknight-dinner jar of Dolmio pasta sauce) for taking the place of "real" tortelli and polenta. Farinetti claims that Italy is no longer able to export such specialties to Britain, due to the country's preference for cheaper, mass-produced versions.

"In Italy, spaghetti bolognese will have 90 grams of spaghetti and 85 grams of ragu. In the UK, in an Italian restaurant that is not really Italian, you get 80 grams of spaghetti and 200 grams of ragu," he said.

Farinetti may have a point there. British high streets are teaming with uninspiring Italian restaurant chains, each with their own variations of cream-drenched gnocchi and "just like mama used to make" tiramisu.

READ MORE: Italy Wants to Take the World 'Parmesan' Away from Kraft

So, Italian cuisine, how can we make it up to you? According to Farinetti, British people should treat Italian produce with the same respect as that from France. He states that the average price of a Parmigiano Reggiano Parmesan is unjustly less than the equivalent slice of French Camembert.

"If the price rises, it will be possible to pay our farmers more and Italian companies will have the money to market their products to more countries," he said.

OK, we're sorry. We can change. This time will be different, we promise. Just after one more deep fried arancini ball.