Professor Alberto Grandi has caused controversy by questioning the authenticity of classic Italian dishes like carbonara, parmesan, and pizza.
Hold onto your pizza slices folks, because things are heating up in Italy's culinary world. Professor Alberto Grandi, a food history expert, has caused controversy by questioning the authenticity of Italian staples like carbonara, Parmesan, and pizza in a recent interview with the Financial Times. Grandi has claimed that Italy's obsession with its cuisine stems from insecurity and that the cult of food in Italy is built on false traditions.
He stated that Italian cuisine is more American than Italian and that the designation of Italian cuisine as a UNESCO World Heritage Site would be a mistake. However, the Italian government has entered Italian cuisine into candidacy for UNESCO World Heritage Site status, which will be decided in December 2025. The government has also announced that it will appoint a czar of cuisine to ensure that Italian restaurants and food producers adhere to the country's culinary traditions.
According to CNN Travel, Grandi's theories on Italian food, including that the classic Roman pasta dish carbonara is an American invention and that real Italian Parmesan can only be found in the US state of Wisconsin, have undercut the nomination for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Grandi holds the view that the UNESCO application dossier focuses more on methods than origins, whereas the true significance of the title lies in recognizing the role of food in culture. Grandi argues that freezing Italian cuisine in time will kill it and that if pizza got better when Italians emigrated to the United States and made the traditional recipe with American enhancements like tomato sauce, as he insists happened, then that should be recognized for what it is—and where it came from. He believes that just because something is Italian does not mean it is guaranteed to be the best.
Italy's National Confederation of Direct Farmers, known as Coldiretti, has criticized Grandi's comments and claimed that global agro-piracy, or the theft of traditional Italian recipes produced abroad with substandard ingredients, has reached 120 billion euros ($130 billion) a year. The organization has taken action against the creators of fake extra virgin Italian olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano, or Parmesan cheese and has even taken action in Wisconsin, where Grandi says more authentic cheese is produced than in Italy.
The protection of Italian food has led Italy to introduce legislation to ban synthetic or cell-based foods from being labeled as meat, cheese, or dairy products. The government has also introduced measures to prevent the use of misleading names on food labels. However, some argue that Italy's focus on protecting its culinary traditions is hindering innovation in the food industry.
Grandi's questioning of the authenticity of Italian cuisine has caused controversy in Italy, particularly as the country seeks UNESCO World Heritage Site status for its culinary traditions. The protection of Italian cuisine is essential to the Italian government and organizations like Coldiretti, who argue that agro-piracy is a significant problem. However, some argue that the focus on protecting traditional recipes and ingredients is hindering innovation in the food industry. Ultimately, the debate over the authenticity of Italian cuisine is likely to continue.