Thursday, 14 January 2010

'Italian' Chains – Why?

So I'm out late one night and I have an interesting Spanish place lined up, but somehow it doesn't quite suit the people I'm with and we end up on this listless drift for somewhere that suits. We end up in Carluccio's. I sit there stuck in my fantasy which involves flamethrowers, and try and work out why I hate it so much.

Is it really Italian? Well, it doesn't seem to relate to food I eat in Italy. That tasteful little sprinkle of rocket doesn't seem to fit with my images of tripe in a bun. But lack of authenticity isn't a major crime. Look at all those english 'caffs' run by Italian families. 'Lasagne and chips' anyone? I love those caffs.

I think that I'm jealous. This foul, soul destroying monster was the only place with a queue of customers. And it works particularly well for women: easy on the red meat (meat generally in fact) and heavy with the green stuff. Women were lapping it up and the only men there were looking miserable. I can often hear customers discussing my menu outside the front door, and the man will go, 'look, wild boar' and the woman will go 'mmmm...but no pasta'. It's the woman that decides where the couple eats.

I'm jealous of those profit margins as well. I struggle (and fail) to achieve my kitchen percentages, but I reckon for every quid you spend in Carluccio's only about 25p goes on ingredients. It's just so much easier without the lumps of bleeding meat. I'm also a bit jealous of the catering equipment they use as a design motif: they're better quality than what I have in my kitchen.

I think the real reason I hate it so much is the insincere slickness. Every italian chain is pretending to be in love with its peasant roots, while it quietly crunches the numbers and gives the customers what they want in a relatively consistent manner. What's wrong with that? There's no love – there's no-one pushing a dish because they love it, there's no-one saying 'try this' because it's all safe choices.

When the waiter said 'come again soon' it felt like mockery. The logic of the chain is blandness and closet vegetarianism. Burn them.

1 comment:

  1. Sadly it demeans the great chef who graced it with his name in the first place, it is so far away from the rustic feel of Italian cuisine that it has lost the plot entirely