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» Mamma Mia! McDonald’s McItaly Burger Sparks Outrage
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Mamma Mia! McDonald’s McItaly Burger Sparks Outrage

By • Feb 5th, 2010 • Category: Burger Blog

In trying to jump-start the Italian economy, fast-food giant McDonald’s has ignited a firestorm of controversy.  Last week in Rome marked the debut of a new cheeseburger called the McItaly:

The square burger is topped with Asiago cheese, artichoke spread, and lettuce: all made in Italy, along with the ground beef and even the bread.  A second menu offering features native olive oil, onion, and smoked pancetta.  There’s also a McItaly salad, dressed with local bresaola and Parmesan.

McDonald’s could have quietly rolled this thing out to see how it fared, but instead, they turned it into a media moment.  The country’s Minister of Agriculture personally donned a Mickey D’s apron to help assemble one of the first McItalys, as seen in this photo by Fabio Campana (EPA):

“This sandwich has great ambitions,” declared Luca Zaia as he praised the burger made “completely from ingredients sourced in Italy… We want to give an imprint of Italian flavors to our youngsters.”

And then the proverbial merda hit the ventaglio. The first shot came from the UK, where Guardian food writer Matthew Fort railed against the campaign on his blog.  His piece cites the “moral bankruptcy” of the Italian government and calls the McItaly concept “a monstrous act of national betrayal.”  He slams the ag minster, too, theorizing that, “It is quite clear that Signor Zaia wouldn’t let such offensive products near his own mouth unless there was a photo opportunity attached to it.”

He writes: “Pleasure lies in diversity, not homogeneity. Who wants to eat the same stuff the whole world over? It’s boring. It’s the kind of global mind-numbing sameness and taste bud-mugging mediocrity that McDonald’s embodies. No one in their right mind can see McDonald’s as either a force for good in the world or as representing the sunny uplands of gastronomy.

Harsh stuff, indeed.  It’s been pointed out that the McItaly photo op was held at the country’s flagship McDonald’s store near the Spanish Steps.  It was the opening of this very same location that inspired Carlo Petrini to begin the now-famous Slow Food movement in 1989.  (It’s naive to think that Mayor McCheese & Co. picked their new burger’s launch spot totally at random.)

Petrini himself has now weighed in on the McItaly, accusing the government of “undermining Italian cuisine,” according to one Times writer.  Petrini, in a letter to La Repubblica, stressed: “to globalize a taste does not promote it, but standardizes and homogenizes it.”

The Italian government, however, stands by the endorsement of the McItaly campaign, claiming that the 7-week promotion could add as much as $3.6 million to the national economy due to its use of local produce.  In fact, Zaia himself lashed back at the Guardian blogpost, expressing a lack of surprise at the article’s “distasteful tones” and “vulgarity.”  Zaia even goes on to compare the McItaly promotion to a holy crusade, vowing, “we will become modern Jesuits and try to ‘convert the infidels’ of the left, who have never dirtied their hands by working in the fields… With regret, we are forced to deliver bad news to this kind of left: Stalin is dead. And we can safely bet he never set foot in a McDonald’s.”

Wow.  This is over a cheeseburger, folks. I’m not sure the Golden Arches is where I would go to sample the world-renowned cuisine of Italy.  But I’m also pretty sure that invoking the spirit of Josef Stalin and calling a few too-serious foodies “infidels of the left” is taking things just a touch too far.

2 Responses to “Mamma Mia! McDonald’s McItaly Burger Sparks Outrage”

  1. 1
    Samira Says:

    Sounds like a cool burger4 all Italianos in the world. Congrats McD’s 4trying this burger out2 try2 reach potential Italian customers!!!!

  2. 2
    cooking mama hack Says:

    Noob i can own you with only one unit

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