The notion of ‘Italian Restaurant’ is global. In the Italian restaurants locally inflected around the world, however, the dialectic of globalisation and localisation is very clear. This scientific collaborative blog aims to promote an interdisciplinary exchange among the researchers interested in exploring, from different points of views, the global/local phenomena tied to the notion of ‘Italian Restaurant’, in their regional variations.
In our hypothesis, the long roots of this model are throughout the convoluted interplays between global and local practices in the cross flows of Italian diasporas and tourism. Both in diasporas and in the Italian touristification process, in fact, the vernacular kitchen arts are been involved on important forms of economic and cultural valorisation of Italian material culture and everyday practices. While, throughout the touristification processes, the Italians discovered themselves as interesting ‘exotic subjects’ for the tourists, in the diasporas many of them have been able to supply – jointly to the food – a bit of ‘exoticism’ to the host-people. Obviously, these considerations must be carefully historically inflected. Actually, the Italian Restaurants set up during the early migrations toward the U.S.A., principally were an important form of immigrant people’s social organization. Within Little Italies, immigrants created New World societies and, in those enclaves, the restaurants helped fuel an emerging Italian-American ethnic culture.
Anyway, in the Italian Restaurant, several forms of tacit knowledge (M. Polanyi), as the cooking ‘art of making do’ (De Certeau) – common knowledge tied to the bodies and to sensoriality (flavours, tastes, tactic feels, sounds, rhythms), which are usually spread horizontally, familiarly, reticulately, practically – turned themselves in skills of competitive advantage in different kind of market.
In our new ‘civilization of clashes’ and frictions between people (Appadurai), the global category of Italian Restaurant is evidently about a dialectical tension with the other: it evokes another places, another times, and another people. So, we can find restaurants which intentionally connote themselves as ‘Italian’ there where the culture differences appear clear and definite, that is to say: a) in the diaspora destinations; b) in the touristic destinations. In the first case we properly talk about ‘Italian Restaurant’. In the second case would be more correct talk about ‘Typical Restaurant’.
Anyway, both these two kind of restaurant, with regional products and cuisines, offer in the same time – but to different kind of customers – two different kind of experience. For Italian migrants and, in Italy, to those who are feeling ‘lost in globalisation’, is an identitary experience of ‘to be back home’. In this case, the emphasis is on the themes of memory (old, traditional), and it converges in several invented traditions (Hobsbawm and Ranger). For non-Italian people, both in the Italian touristic destinations and/or in their own countries, the Italian Restaurant represents, instead, an exotic experience.
In both the cases, anyway, the restaurant ‘typicalness’ is largely shaped by the (supposed) customers’ cultural stereotypes. So it founds generally on the social imaginary, on literature and, above all, on media. The media messages, in fact, are global, but also processed and adapted – by different cultures and people – throughout the everyday life. So, across the continents, these messages are continually re-coded and enhanced through local cultural meanings, and easily can supply frames of recognition to the customers.
The conscious and un-conscious self-ethnicization practices of restaurateurs, are generally associated with traditions and inheritance that is passed on from generation to generation (the home-cooking, the mama’s recipes, the regional cuisine), but also to the better-known touristic destinations evoked by the Restaurants’ signs (Capri, Grotta Azzurra, Roma, etc.) and, finally, to movies, actors, and media stars and images which decorate the walls of the hall.
Actually, the interior design, furniture, lighting, and music must arrange an adequate setting. The restaurant hall is a performative space, in which restaurant owners, waiters, and customers, play their roles in the same ‘game’. The restaurant’s ‘typicalness’, in fact, is above all founded in a recursive symbolic interaction between the customers and the restaurant staff, through the typical stage/backstage dynamics (Goffman).
Nevertheless, the truth is one of the most important themes in the cooperative and interactive construction of this performing space. Everything and everyone, in this fictional area, must claim to be real, original, genuine, and authentic.
All that we said so far concerns the similarities that allow indicating a notion of ‘Italian Restaurant’. But the Italian restaurants all around the world, and in Italy of course, are very different, because are been implemented locally and/or regionally by producers and consumers, during nonlinear processes and practices of global cultural flows and transnational diasporas.
So, this blog is aimed to thematize the global/local concept of ‘Italian Restaurant’ and to observe on the field its regional and transnational variations, in Italy, Europe and Americas. We believe that, through the Italian restaurants’ observation, we could have a better understanding of the practices of global cultural flows and transnational diasporas.
The blog starts involving six researchers, working in different academic Institutions, and now on the field in Italy, Germany and Brazil. In our intention, it is an multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary co-working space. It is a space, and a means, of presenting, enhancing, and sharing the research activities of spatially distributed researchers and workgroups. It is a space, and a means of sharing: field notes, drafts of results, case histories, life histories, and different research materials, as photo, interviews, images, videos, articles, bibliographies, etc.
It is aimed to setting the research topic, sharing field observations, and focussing on ideas, hypotheses, and critical insights useful to clarify, and perhaps to reconfigure, analytical models of cultural flows throughout the people transnational flows.
This blog is an invitation to collaborative methods of scientific work. But it is also a call to join us to all the researchers, and scientific institutions interested in exploring the issues tied to our topic.
We are confident in a manner of science building in which many subjects – researchers, universities and research centers – work together in an collaborative environment, combining resources, materials, ideas and brainpower.
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