“They eat the dainty food of famous chefs with the same pleasure with which they devour gross peasant dishes, mostly composed of garlic and tomatoes, or fisherman’s octopus and shrimps, fried in heavily scented olive oil on a little deserted beach.”Luigi Barzini, Author of The Italians (1964)
I live in a place where order food is considered a bad thing or the result of an emergency situation. I’m not necessarily talking about fast food but all types of food delivery services. Of course, in large Italian cities like Milan, Torino and Rome the habit of ordering food by phone calls or apps is a little more widespread and seen as normal, despite being seen as a low quality service.
While in Brazil or the United States, for example, the majority of restaurants at any price and service level have a food delivery or a take and go service, here in Italy the situation in the restaurant industry is the opposite. First of all, going to the restaurant here is faced as sacred and you need to follow a ritual. The first shock for me when I arrived was the impossibility of going to a restaurant without making a reservation beforehand. You can hardly get a table in a restaurant simply because you were passing by and decided to enter and if you succeed you will be placed a table in the corner of shame.
Returning to focus. Once present inside a restaurant you will be able to easily pack what is left of your meal to take home or ask for something more to bring to someone who cannot go with you. But it will be seen as something unusual. Now, in times of quarantine and lockdown as a result of this covid-19 crisis, how is the restaurant industry adapting? The most important thing is also to know how the Italian itself is adapting.
Here in my small village in the north of Italy, the pizzerias in the vicinity were the first and started about 30 days of lockdown. Others only after about 50 days of lockdown the restaurants started the food delivery service. I have to say that here where I live there was no food delivery service available before this crisis. Now, even though it is a food delivery service you need to order in advance. In some cases you need to order by 11am to receive your order in the evening. In others you need to order the day before.
Amazingly, in this type of service in many cases the price is lower than the price practiced inside the restaurant. I believe that the price is lower precisely because of the Italian’s belief that the service in the restaurant is something sacred and ordering food is an exceptional situation in this crisis.