Italian chef Antonio Carluccio has poured scorn on ‘Britalian’ food – the vast amounts of Italian dishes Britons buy in supermarkets – because it’s nothing like the real thing.
The market for Italian ready meals, pasta, cheeses, risotto rice, hams, olive oils, breads, vinegars and sauces is expected to grow by 33.3% to £1.38bn over the next few years.
And Carluccio, who lives in the UK where he runs his eponymous restaurant chain and ultra-authentic delis, has told the Grocer magazine the UK supermarkets have ‘committed huge crimes’ with their versions of Italian food. ‘It’s what I call Britalian food. Everyone has jumped on the bandwagon.’
His levels the usual criticism at the supermarkets: they use their economic heft to drive down prices, and then buy the cheapest but not necessarily the best ingredients.
Carluccio reckons classic Italian dishes such as spaghetti napolitana are being made with the wrong ingredients and are not authentic.
The Italian government, which has just succeeded in passing a law protecting Napolitan pizza with its own SGT (Specialita Tradizionale Guarantita) is also distressed by the phenomenon. The Ministry of Agriculture is at present working to get EU measures passed to ensure the integrity of Italian restaurants abroad.
The Italy-based Slow Food movement protects Italian food from the ravages of Italian supermarkets by working closely with them to promote certain traditional and endangered products in stores in a bid to ‘educate’ the people. But it can do nothing about the UK.
‘Generally it is very difficult to find good quality Italian food abroad,’ the organisation’s Alessandra Abbona told decanter.com.
For its part, Sainsburys says it does its best but has to cater for the British palate, which prefers sloppier sauces than the authentic recipes demand, for example.
‘I agree to a certain extent with what Carluccio is saying. But there is a niche market for the produce he has in his delis and we have to develop our range over time and respond to what British people want,’ in-house chef James Wood said.
But Tesco is unrepentant, saying it works with top Italian chefs, the finest ingredients and the best recipes to create dishes that are ‘a hit’ with customers.
Written by Adam Lechmere