Migrants get Pakistani chef amid 'bad' Italian food revolt

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Migrants in Emilia-Romagna have been given a new Pakistani cook after they complained about the Italian food on offer. Renata F. Olivera/Flickr
11:10 CEST+02:00
A Pakistani chef has been brought in to cater for 200 people living at a refugee centre in Emilia-Romagna, after they protested over the poor quality of the Italian food on offer.

The new appointment comes after protests last Wednesday, during which 30 refugees from the Coop Dimora d'Abramo refugee centre in Reggio Emilia occupied their local police headquarters complaining the food they were served was “no good” and “cooked badly”, Il Resto del Carlino reported.

In the wake of the protests, the traditional Italian trattoria which currently prepares the meals, Il Locomotore, has promised to do more to satisfy the refugees' tastes.

“We're talking with the reception centre at the moment and will bring in a new Pakistani chef, specialized in African cuisine to cook a meal for the migrants once a week,” Il Locomotore employee Paolo Masetti told Il Resto Del Carlino.

An employee at the centre declined to discuss meal offerings for refugees when contacted by The Local.

But the restaurant's decision has provoked a backlash from many who feel they are pandering to the refugees' unfair and excessive demands.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy's anti-immigration Northern League, told The Local the decision was "crazy".

"No other European country would put up with this kind of protest from migrants," he said on the sidelines of a press conference at Rome's foreign press association on Wednesday to promote his new autobiography.

In the wake of the controversy, regional councillor for Italy's Democratic Party, Mirko Tutino, defended the decision to get a new cook, saying it was “important to meet the needs of people fleeing war and poverty.”

“It's not about disrespect for Italian food, it's about food that isn't part of the asylum seekers' culture,” he added.

At present, a typical day's menu at the canteen includes pasta and tomato sauce, followed by chicken and artichokes. All meals come with a bread and a bottle of water.

Apart from being alien to those who come from diverse food cultures, the refugees say the food is also cooked badly.

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“I like Italian food, but here it's not well cooked at all,” said Zeshan, a migrant from Pakistan who was among the protesters last week.

“Many of us have eaten Italian food before in England and Germany and it was better than this.”

The protest follows one in the Veneto region in 2014, when refugees at a centre in Belluno lamented "montonous" Italian food. 

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