Also known as “The Death of Italian Cuisine”
Yesterday the web exploded with news of the imminent opening of the first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Italy, conveniently located at Rome’s most out-of-the-way and unreachable mall: Roma Est. Based on a survey of the many sites reporting this news, the conclusion is clear: no one knows whether it’s a ruse or not. Much like the periodic apocalyptic reports of Starbucks planning a first location in Italy, I suspect that this too will prove false. But you can decide for yourself. Take a look at this article. And this one. And this one. And this one. Unfortunately, if you don’t speak Italian you’ll have to trust my judgment (for some reason English language news sources just didn’t deem KFC newsworthy).
What’s much more fascinating to me as an American (and a pescetarian health nut wholly uninterested in chicken fried by anyone but my grandmother) is the absurdity of the excitement a paper bucket of greasy fried chicken can cause among the populace that invented pizza margherita, carbonara, mozzarella di bufala, and Nutella. It’s unreal. If the chain ever manages to hurdle the bureaucratic obstacles of entering this country, it won’t be a surprise. What should be more surprising is that people so picky about which shape of pasta to pair with which sauce could be so thrilled to take part in an all-on American festival of degradation in the world’s most reviled restaurant.
I’m engaging the sociological side of my brain (and the diploma which still isn’t hanging on my wall) to try desperately to decode this reaction of passionate joy at the thought of stuffing ones face with fried mystery meat. Somehow, in the heartland of good food, a cult following has grown up around such goliath symbols of inauthenticity and global blah as Starbucks, McDonalds and KFC. The only possible explanation I can find is a fascination with the prestige implied by that cookie cutter capitalism the USA does so well. This is, after all, the same Rome where the populace has abandoned its family-run businesses supplied by small-scale producers to spend Sunday shopping for “fresh local produce” in the international chain supermarket Eataly. If the trappings of being the world’s richest nation are fast food franchises on every corner, who can blame anyone for wanting a piece?