Doggy bags: The last Italian taboo?

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One in four Italians believe the idea of carrying the remnants of their favourite dishes back home is a sign of poverty. Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP
12:33 CEST+02:00
When America’s First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters dined in a popular Rome restaurant in 2009, staff were shocked when she asked for a 'doggy bag' to take her leftovers home.

Now a new survey by the Italian farmers’ association, Coldiretti, has found the practice is still considered a taboo in Italy.

According to the survey cited by the Italian media, one in four Italians believe the idea of carrying the remnants of their favourite dishes back home is a sign of poverty, bad manners and even vulgarity.

To avoid the shame of taking any morsel of food away, 28 percent of Italians believe it is better to swallow it all and clear their plates completely, the survey found.

Michelin star chef, Matteo Baronetto, from Turin’s historic Del Cambio restaurant said foreign guests sometimes request a ‘doggy bag’ and there should be no shame about it.

“There’s no scandal, quite the opposite,” Baronetto told the Italian daily, La Stampa. “It’s the client’s choice and it’s his meal since he has paid for it. 

“The same also happens with uncorked wine bottles which are unfinished. There’s nothing bad about finishing them at home.”

Nevertheless there are signs of a change in Italy. The Coldiretti survey found that 25 percent of Italians sometimes ask for a “doggy bag” to take their leftovers home.

In the northern region of Lombardy a recycling consortium has launched an initiative with 75 restaurants to promote takeaway leftovers, complete with specially designed ‘doggy bags’.

And nearly two thirds of Italians have reduced their food waste at home to an average 76 kilos per person.

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Baronetto said whether or not to ask for a ‘doggy bag’ was a personal choice for Italians.

“It is a cultural problem or even a psychological one,” he said. “On the one hand, the idea is that I have paid, it is mine so I should not waste it.

“On the other, there is the fear of making a bad impression and being considered one who watches every last cent. Both seem legitimate to me, but personally I don’t find any shame in asking for a ‘doggy bag’.” 

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