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When it comes to food, don't mess with the Italians.
Though every region of Italy has a diverse range of cuisines, if a traditional recipe is changed, the offending chef may face a lot of blowback.
Take, for example, the controversial case of chef Carlo Cracco and his healthier take on a traditional Margherita pie.
Carlo Cracco, who is based in Milan, Italy, dared to switch up the recipe for Margherita pizza, which requires very specific ingredients and preparation according to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, an organization that regulates Neapolitan pizza ingredients. Naples is the birthplace of pizza and the art of making a Neapolitan pizza even holds UNESCO World Heritage status.
What did he get for his efforts? A lot of blowback from the Italian people.
Cracco, who owns three restaurants in Milan, including his latest Ristorante Cracco in the city’s famous shopping center Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, apparently dared to add healthier whole grains to the crust and, according to Italian journalist Angelo Forgione left off the required basil ... all while charging 16 euros! The Corriere della Sera in Milan quoted locals as saying the price seemed too steep for “the alleys of Naples,” where fresh pizza is readily available for about two euros.
The Telegraph reported that restaurant critic Ernesto Pentaglia weighed in, commenting, "We are certain that nobody will go on purpose to Carlo Cracco to eat his revisited pizza Margherita, except perhaps some foreign punter willing to try the experience of his new restaurant."
This isn’t the first time Cracco, whose restaurant Le Clivie was awarded a Michelin star and is also something of a celebrity chef in Italy having appeared on "MasterChef Italia," has come under fire for his non-traditional recipes. According to the Guardian, the Italian town of Amatrice called him out for adding garlic to his pasta amatriciana, which is not one of the six ingredients traditionally used to make the dish.
However, Cracco’s pizza no-no has resulted in serious vitriol throughout social media, even spawning memes like these:
It seems Italians love to hate foods that don’t hold to tradition. There’s even an Italian Twitter account that calls out chefs who dare to mess with traditional Italian recipes.
But Italians aren’t alone in their dislike of change when it comes to classic foods. Americans didn’t take too kindly to a PopSugar Fitness video that added avocado to macaroni and cheese. While it might have made the dish healthier, it also turned it green and removed some cheese, upsetting comfort food traditionalists everywhere.
And even when General Mills tried to remove artificial flavors and colors from its Trix cereal to appeal to more health-conscious consumers, people couldn’t handle the loss of the bright colors and demanded the company bring back the fake dyes and preservatives. They did. And now there are two versions of Trix available.
This is all just a cautionary tale to chefs and food companies looking to update the classics: when it comes to favorite comfort foods, be prepared for some backlash if you want to tinker with the original recipe.