Regular readers of this blog may recall me recounting the heroic exploits of Libera Terra, an organisation dedicated to freeing the Italian food industry from the baneful influence of the Mafia.
Now I have fresh news to report. Scrupulous gourmands can be assured that not only their pizza, pasta, olive oil, breadsticks and Sicilian wine are untainted by organised crime: the restaurant in which they might aspire to eat them is now also being managed with a clean pair of hands.
Not any old upmarket restaurant either. We’re talking here of Rome’s most famous eaterie, the Café de Paris in the via Veneto – which once played centre-stage in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. Of late it had fallen on evil times. In place of jet-setters, diplomats and businessmen, its core clientele had become mobsters. Something closely related, no doubt, to the fact that leading ‘Ndrangheta clan the Alvaro family (for which read Calabrian mob) had taken an unhealthy interest in the place.
A criminal investigation launched in 2009 led to the restaurant being put into administration, under legislation that empowers the Italian state to confiscate property owned by mobsters and to restore it to legitimate ownership through such entrepreneurial organisations as Libera.
For long-suffering restaurant manager Marcello Scofano the change of ownership comes as a huge relief. “We went through tough times. Because we rely a lot on foreign customers, the negative reputation abroad had a negative impact on our revenues,” he is reported as saying in La Stampa.
To celebrate a new era, and cement an ethically-cleansed alliance, Scofano has launched what he calls a “legality menu”. And guess what? It consists of dishes exclusively prepared from food grown on Libera’s confiscated estates.
As I said previously: Libera, it’s the ultimate Fairtrade kitemark.