Local, Fresh, and Tasty

If you had to choose between a local restaurant or a chain restaurant, such as the hard rock caffe, which would you choose?

I find it quite interesting to hear people's answers to this question. The majority of people say that they would prefer a local restaurant, yet their eating habits say otherwise. Why are people like this? Why is processed, unhealthy food so appealing to people? And why would a restaurant that serves the masses appeal to someone over a quaint restaurant with friendly staff, local ingredients, and a small kitchen?

I think that the answer to this question is convenience, familiarity, and routine. If you go to a place like Starbucks, McDonald's, or the Hard Rock Caffe, you know what you are going to get because you already know the menu and you order the same thing every time. And since everything on the menu is most likely made in a factory and frozen, or at least follows a strict recipe, you know that you will be getting the same product every time. Or maybe it's just convenience because you know their hours. Or the fact that large chains with large money can afford to stay open late because they know they will get customers anyways. So it all comes down to the convenience and familiarity.

This obsession with convenience is especially prevalent in American culture. People in America are workaholics and are real busy bee's. People work, go to school, volunteer, and then have extra curricular activities. They also like to socialize, have hobbies, and even have some alone time. Because our culture is on the go all the time, convenience rules our lives. This is why you see so many fast food restaurants and chains in America. Americans are drawn to them because they don't usually have the time to go anywhere else.

The culture is completely different in Italy. People take a "pausa" for several hours in the early afternoon to go home for lunch. During this time nearly everything except chain stores such as H&M and Sephora, as well as Caffe's close.

There is significantly less chain restaurants in Italy. The only two that I have seen here are McDonald's and Hard Rock Caffe. Most Italians eat at the local restaurants where they can buy fresh, local, and handmade food. In an interview with an employee of the restaurant and caffé Ghirba, she discussed the policies of the restaurant, as well as her perception of the culture of Italian food.

I think local restaurants have quality items. I don't think the same about chains. Also it is important to build a web.

By a web, she means the communities between owners, customers, and suppliers of ingredients. Local restaurants help build communities, whereas chain restaurants tend to not be as specialized to a particular area, and the authentic web and communities are not usually present. Creating a web for local shops and restaurants and their customers is a very key aspect to having a self-efficient, and close-knit community. I think that true communities and webs tend to be a thing of the past now, especially in America where everything is bigger, better, and not local.

So far what I have seen of Reggio Emilia, it seems to be very much more of a community based city, where local shops and restaurants flood the streets, and people buy from the markets, as well as local butcher shops and bakeries.

Local Market in Reggio Emilia

She also listed out to me where they get their ingredients from, and whether or not they are local. Nearly every item that they sell, or cook with is bought from local suppliers. A few things aren't, however, but she told me that they only buy non-local ingredients if they cannot buy them locally. From what she listed out to me, the only items that were not from Reggio Emilia, she got from other cities within Emilia-Romagna, such as Bologna and Parma.

The last thing that she said about her restaurant that I found interesting was the reason behind them updating their menu every day. Because they are a small restaurant, their kitchen and staff is not big enough to make 10-12 menu items every day. So instead they improvise. By making 4 dishes every day, but changing them up every day, they don't have to make too many items in one day, and yet their customers still get variety and the menu still is unique and different. I thought that was really cool, and is definitely something that local restaurants should keep in mind if freshness, and diversity are two aspects they would like to maintain.

Although there are several restaurants that are similar to this in America, they are just less common because they are not the normal. People love these types of restaurants when they do go to them, but the issue of convenience still comes up. They don't have time to wait for odd hours of small restaurants, and they prefer the comfort of uniformity amongst chains.

The thing about Italians is that they love food. They love good food and they love food with tradition, culture, and food that is made with love. This is why they invest so much time and effort into their food, and why it is usually so much better. When asking a Ghirba employee what they think of Italian culture her answer was pretty straightforward.

Intensive. Italians always think about food. Maniacs.

This just confirms exactly what I was saying earlier, Italians care a great deal about their food, and that is why the quality is there more often. Americans, as a group, care significantly less about the quality of their food and that is why there is such a divide between the two food culture.

In Italy they add work and life on to food and wine.
Created By
Corrin Budge


Created with images by dbreen - "carrot kale walnuts"

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