Italian restaurants and pizzerias, for foodies around the world who are the main reason to visit, face an existential threat. That does not fold after 10 weeks of tight locking of the corona virus appearing to find that new social distance requirements may not yet put them out of business.
While Italians are having fun this week because they can sit on a plate of spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams) in their local trattoria for the first time since March, many studies show that as much as a third of bars and restaurants in Italy closes at risk. Reason? Financial losses have been caused by lockdowns, the projected decline in tourism, reduced table capacity and the Italians’ own fears about eating out.
The famous Harry’s Bar in Venice – the birthplace of Bellini cocktails from white peach juice and prosecco – has been closed until further notice.
“We cannot think about opening only with five or six people” being allowed in at once, said owner Arrigo Cipriani.
Milan chef Matteo Fronduti, who won the first Italian edition of “Top Chef,” announced that his Manna restaurant will not be reopened for now, given the remaining questions about the risk of ongoing transmission and confusing Italian government regulations for restaurants.
Only when the questions are answered, said Fronduti, he will consider reopening Manna, which features unusual dishes and given wild names such as “Fighting the wear and tear of modern life,” (artichokes, raw jumbo shrimp and lemons) and “All talk “(spaghetti, broccoli rabe, herring, and turnips).
“Until then, I will continue to listen and make meatballs,” Fronduti wrote on Facebook.
Because of this, locking in the birthplace of the Slow Food movement has cost the Italian food and beverage sector 14 billion euros ($ 15.1 billion) in lost revenue, said Bain’s consultant. It is estimated that a full-year loss could reach 30 billion euros ($ 32.4 billion) in an industry that is worth 4% of Italy’s gross domestic product and accounts for 5% of its work. Bain projects that up to 300,000 jobs are at risk.
“This is a slightly apocalyptic situation,” said Manuela Paiella, owner of Corsi Trattoria in central Rome, a popular lunch spot for tourists and Romans. “We would never have thought in the restaurant business, in the historic center of the European capital, that we could live through something like this.”
Corsi reopened for business on Monday, the first day the restaurant was allowed to sit. But half of the table was deleted because of social distance rules. A hand cleansing gel is placed at the entrance and a new ordering system is installed to allow customers to see the menus on their cellphones. Waiters no longer squeeze between crowded tables to read specials.
“We have to reverse all the activities we did before,” complained chef Raffaele at Cristo, who now has to wear a mask and latex gloves for cooking. “Everything changes.”
Nearby Pierluigi, one of the most luxurious restaurants in Rome, must renovate its kitchen because the workplace must also respect social distance.
The main Italian agricultural lobby estimated this week that Italian restaurants and pizzerias had decreased consumption by 80% during the close, with the ripple effect hitting vital wine and the agricultural sector very hard.
Coldiretti said before the coronavirus outbreak, Italians spent 35% of their food budget outside the home, from morning cappuccinos to pizza dinners, pumping 84 billion euros ($ 90.7 billion) a year into the Italian food and beverage industry.
But now, many Italians are too afraid to eat outside. A SWG poll this week found that 32% of Italians consider going to restaurants “unsafe,” especially places with only indoor seating.
Their fear doesn’t make sense. For two months, Italy was the center of the spread of the European corona virus, with a surge of patients in several hospitals in the north and a surge in deaths that hurt Italian families and souls. Italy has witnessed more than 32,000 deaths in this pandemic, only behind the United States and Britain.
While the Italians welcomed the easing of locking restrictions, many feared a second wave of infections and deaths would be predicted amid uncertainty that the government was controlling the outbreak.
For those who stay at home, there is at least “Kitchen Quarantine” Massimo Bottura, “a weekly YouTube cooking tutorial from three-star Michelin chefs, who recently won the Webby Award for” inspiring home cooking and uplifting spirit “during the COVID-19 crisis.
The show is captivating. Narrated in English by her daughter Alexa and featuring the brilliant acting of American wife and child Bottura in the kitchen of their home, Bottura takes viewers through easy recipes.
Osteria Francescana di Modena, one of the most famous Italian restaurants in Bottura, is scheduled to reopen on June 2.
But the loss of tourists hit the industry hard. Seven of the 10 restaurants on the beautiful Piazza Navona in Rome are still closed on Wednesday. They cater to most tourists, so many will likely remain closed at least until Italy reopens to European visitors on June 3.
At L’Asola del Pescatore in the Santa Severa beach resort near Rome, up to 40% of its customers are foreigners.
“Of course we have to be stronger than before and try to start again,” said owner Stefano Quartieri as he prepared a table to meet new government regulations.
Restaurant owners loudly criticized the initial government recommendation that their tables were 4 meters (13 feet) apart, arguing it would destroy the industry.
“If you want 4 meters, it’s better to just close it,” Lino Enrico Stoppani warned, president of the restaurant’s FIPE federation. The government finally relented and approved the rule of distance of 1 meter (3 feet), and moved to the top of 1 June reopened by two weeks.
Diner Francesco Lapenta joined some of her colleagues for lunch at Corsi on Monday, sitting separately. He reads the menu items from his phone, talking loudly so his friends can hear.
“We should shout more,” Lapenta said as he blurted out pasta that day: carbonara, cacio e pepe, gricia. “We will make more noise!”
(This story has been published from a wire agent feed without modification to the text. Only the headlines have been changed.)
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