The Great Kebab Wars
By Mauro Suttora | NEWSWEEK
Published Feb 7, 2009
The Tuscan city of Lucca, famous as Puccini's birthplace, doesn't need any more publicity—especially if it carries the taint of "culinary racism." But that's the accusation being lobbed in response to Lucca's ban on new ethnic eateries in its city center. Ban supporters claim it will preserve "traditional and cultural identity," says Mayor Mauro Favilla, who wants to avoid becoming another Rome, where ancient streets are home to cheap fast-food and greasy Chinese joints.
Currently, Lucca's center boasts just four "ethnic" eateries, Turkish kebab places that opened within the last two years. "In Pisa, now there are 16 kebab [shops]; that's why they fear us," says Hayri Gok, who runs the Mesopotamia eatery. Detractors say Lucca's move makes little economic sense. "Tourism … is all about openness and variety," says Avi Rosental, director of the International Hotel & Restaurant Association. Besides, what if Turkey retaliates and outlaws pizza?