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Robert Schonfeld

Italian Cuisine

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The Fat Guy has asked:

"Given that most gourmets would cite Italy as one of the top food destinations on Earth -- there are even many who prefer dining in Italy to dining in France -- why is it that Italy hardly seems relevant to the world of modern gastronomy?

Is it a simple question of the heavily regional orientation of Italian cuisine combined with the lack of identifiable Italian chef-personalities? Or is there something more to it?"

A lively, if only partially informed, discussion ensued, which, if you have time on your hands, you may read here.

What is your opinion?

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Robert,

Italy is truly one of the worlds great culinary countries.

I think that the problem when it comes to the question of Italy being hardly relavent to the world of modern gastronomy is, I think, that the benchmark for modern gastronomy is still the MIchelin guide and notably the third star.

Classical french cooking can fit into this category of gastronomy and , above all comfort far more easily than Italian cookery can.

It also seems to me that that more people go to Italy to eat regional food than for a gastronomic (haute-cuisine) trip.

I think one thing to mention is that, until recently, Italian cuisine has been very rigid in its' regionality. if you are from a certain part of Northern Italy and do not put a Parma ham knuckle bone in your tomato sauce, it simply was not acceptable.

The same goes with the un-written law that parmesan should never be incorporated into a seafood dish when pasta or rice are involved.

There is now a new breed of chef that I think will go some way to change this. One is my friend Davide Scabino in Torrino who recently gained his first star by cooking regional Italian food. This however, is not what he enjoys cooking and if you request that the meal is left to him, then you geone course consisting of a scuba diving back pack and told to breath through the mask. You get a jet of oxtail vapor!

I am not suggesting for one minute that this is the way forward for Italian cooking, but I do think that chefs like Davide herald the beginning of a new chapter in Italian cooking.

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