Although it's not yet mandatory (at least not at the moment), the number of Italian restaurants announcing their closure until the coronavirus emergency is over has multiplied: a choice made for preventive purposes and out of respect for national directives.
There is no longer a "red zone" in the north of Italy. The whole of Italy is now a "protected area", according to the Prime Minister's decree of 9 March 2020. A measure, simply defined as "I stay home" (io resto a casa), extends the restrictive measures in place for the containment of the spread of the coronavirus, which initially only applied to Lombardy and 14 Italian provinces.
Closing restaurant and bar activities between the hours of 6pm and 6 am is among the measures stipulated by the law decree. While bars and restaurants are permitted to open between 6am to 6pm, they must be able to satisfy the ruling that they can guarantee a sufficient "safety distance" of at least one meter between diners and staff.
The measure invites inhabitants to stay at home and, consequently, take a responsible attitude towards the community. It's precisely this "sense of responsibility" that has seen most chefs make the decision to shut down their restaurants during this period.
The Responses of Chef: From Massimo Bottura to Davide Oldani
Massimo Bottura from three Michelin star Osteria Francescana in Modena was among the first to report the closing of his restaurant. Yesterday, the chef posted a video message on Instagram, announcing; “In light of recent ministerial communications, we are sorry to have to inform you that the Osteria Francescana, Casa Maria Luigia and Franceschetta will remain closed until April 3. This decision was made for preventive purposes, to reduce the possible risk of exposure and limit its spread in compliance with the precautionary measures launched at a national level. Guys, we'll be back stronger than before, stay safe and be positive. P.S. I thank all the people of Modena who made me feel their affection from Saturday. I'm sure we'll see you soon, thank you all. "
Meanwhile, Davide Oldani, of Michelin starred D'O restaurant in Cornaredo, Milan, also launched a message on Instagram, #cidobbiamofermare: "This evening I switched the lights off at D'O. I switched them off because I'm sure it's the right thing to do. And was it difficult? Yes, but I did it with hope in my heart. The hope that this gesture of mine can somehow help to stem "the flow of the river" and that will allow us to return to our daily lives as soon as possible, even if I am convinced that the everyday life of each of us will be a little different from the past. Even slightly, but it will be ".
In Milan, the "Committee of Responsible Restaurateurs" Band Together
Collective chef voices have been heard as well as those single voices of great chefs. Like that of the "responsible Milanese restaurateurs", who initially gathered and united in groups, on Facebook and on WhatsApp, to try to understand how best to communicate their respect for the safety measures.
Given the government measures, they decided to close all their restaurants, out of a sense of responsibility. Thus, with the signature of the Responsible Restaurateurs Committee, over one hundred Milanese restaurateurs wrote a letter addressed to the President of the Council of Ministers, to the President of the Lombardy Region, to the Minister of Health and to the Mayor of the Metropolitan City of Milan, where they expressed their solidarity and declared closure of their activities.
"Due to the nature of the service offered by administration establishments, the request to keep the interpersonal distance of one meter is practically impossible to enforce. Physical closeness cannot be eliminated between service staff and customers and between customers themselves even if there are tables available with the appropriate measures ", the letter reads. And again, the text refers to the possible economic scenario resulting from this emergency, and this choice. "In the best possible scenario, the inevitable collapse of the collections would lead to the closure and dismissal of many employees."
"This is an initiative to make our voice heard, but also to ask for help from the Municipality and the Region, because this situation affects us a lot: it is a letter to make the institutions feel that we are worried and ensure that our choice to close does not go to the wind. We ask for guarantees ", commented Diego Rossi from Trippa, among the members of the Responsible Restaurateurs Committee. Among the committee's "responsible restaurateurs" there is also Alice Delcourt from Erba Brusca, Francesco Costanzo from Pasta Madre, Daniel Piotr from Altriménti, Alessandra Straccamore and Matteo Mazza from Motelombroso and Tunde Pecsvari from Osteria Brunello, to name a few.
In Florence, a union of 300 catering entrepreneurs
Likewise in Tuscany, restaurateurs joined together after the first decree-law of 8 March: in a press release of 9 March, they asked for the extension of the red zone (which then actually happened, with the second decree- law). Over 300 entrepreneurs in the Florentine restaurant industry signed a letter referring once again to the sense of responsibility. The letter, addressed to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health and the President of the Tuscany Region, read:
"The sense of responsibility requires us to protect our employees from a point of view of health and to maintain their jobs, to protect our customers and ourselves and thus stem the increasingly expanding Covid 19 epidemic."
The world of pizza and the Partenopei Riuniti Brand
Even the world of pizza has made its voice heard. Starting with Franco Pepe, who immediately suspended his ongoing four-hand dinner series, Authentica Stellata "out of respect for the appeals and the regulations of the decree", he told us, and established three shifts, by reservation only, to eat in his Pepe in Grani in Caiazzo. "I reduced seats, increased sanitation points and trained staff - I set 20 minutes of time for sanitizing between shifts," he told us on the morning of March 9, after the government's first steps.
Gino Sorbillo in Naples, on the other hand, immediately proposed a delivery system, together with Da Michele, another historic Neapolitan pizza brand, to deliver their leavened products to people's homes. Then, after the decree issued on the evening of 9 March, he announced the closure of his pizzerias, joining the #Napolisiferma initiative of a representative group of over 100 entrepreneurs in the Vesuvian city of catering.
The group, which temporarily associated with the name of Brand Partenopei Riuniti, wanted to give a strong signal of responsibility, placing the interest of the community before that of the individual. The promoters are Dario Moxedano from Muu Muzzarella, Diego Nuzzo from Coco Loco, Vincenzo Cerbone from 12 Bites, Roberto Biscardi from Re di Napoli and Stefano Vitucci from Terrazza Calabritto.
Gathering spontaneously, the Neapolitan restaurateurs deliberated the voluntary closure of their businesses from Wednesday 11 March to a date still to be set, pending clear and decisive indications from the institutions. "A painful but necessary decision taken for the good of the community and to give a firm and clear answer in this moment of great confusion and concern. To date, we have respected the decree law of the Campania Region by observing all the regulations indicated with scrupulousness and commitment. The only way to slow down the contagion and avoid the worst is to reduce, if not avoid, social contact. And we want to do our part! We have the duty to put the health of everyone, our collaborators and customers, before the logic of profit, "said Moxedano.
Meanwhile, they announced, "the same initiative will be proposed by Milan for the Union of Italian Catering Brands".
The situation is constantly evolving and testing the limits of the catering industry, which is reacting to the emergency by showing maturity and a sense of responsibility as well as a great sense of cohesion.
Unity is strength, it's said, and that's a positive message for all.