Lucca, Italy was the first city to ban any new ethnic food outlets from opening within the ancient city walls. The ban has spread to Lombardy and its regional capital, Milan.
The bans on opening any new ethnic food outlets in both Lucca and Milan may be an extreme example of the local food movement.
The bans are said to be a part of a campaign against ethnic food, that is supported by the centre-right Government of Silvio Berlusconi.
The decision has caused quite a stir and a controversy is brewing.
“It is not permitted to open commercial premises serving food and drink whose business is related to other ethnic groups”.
PD councillor Alessandro Tambellini immediately denounced the ban as “discriminatory”, accusing the executive council of “opting to slam the door on other cultures, replacing the logic of dialogue with that of refusal”.
He added. "The reference to ethnic groups is ill-chosen, to say the least. What does it mean? Are French and German cooking OK, because they have the same roots as ours, but not Indian, Chinese or Arab food?"
Councillor Paolo Cocchi said: “We are against veiled forms of gastronomic racism”.
The response from the executive council mirrors surprise at the councillor's words.
“What racism? Our sole aim is to safeguard the historic heritage of the city centre”, replied Lucca’s executive councillors.
Councillor Filippo Candelise explained: “The by-law dates from a resolution passed in 2000, which we have updated”.
He added: “The ban also includes shops selling pizzas by the slice, McDonald’s, other fast food outlets and sex shops. It will not affect existing commercial premises”.
The reference to ethnic groups remains troublesome and this debate may be bubbling for sometime yet.