Traditional, ethnic, vegetarian and vegan breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Themed events and tours, spiced with the musical, cultural, and historical treasures of the diverse local regions of the world. Many creative variations, but only one common denominator: a shared table among friends for the purpose to taste a menu of homemade food from natural ingredients, often grown in the same place, at prices lower than those of restaurants. Such an idea has finally gained foothold in Italy, where good food rhymes with good society and living.

Along with the need to save money and the desire to rediscover traditional cuisine, the phenomena of social eating, or the home restaurant as it is sometimes called, is expanding even to Italy, late as to abide the Italian standard of tardiness. While the sites that bring the guests and home chefs continue to sprout up like mushrooms  – Gnammo being the largest, with over 90,000 “gnammers” and nearly 3,000 active chefs -, finally the Italian Minister of Economic Development

has placed a stop order on social eating with a legislative vote used to protect the traditional restaurant economy.

Last April arrived the verdict: home restaurants have all the features of a normal restaurant and therefore are bound to the regulatory rules of traditional restaurants. In simple terms, the Italian bureaucracy sees the home restaurants as a river of tax revenue that is not being touched. Consequently, home restaurants have now entered a strange area politically and legally, rendering them semi-legal, in which they are only allowed under presence of cultural associations.

However, the home restaurants business is hardly a source of monetary wealth, when often hardly more than a refund of the costs involved are asked. These small private restaurants can hardly be compared to the restaurant industry where health is sacrificed in the name of profit.

To oppose this inequitable decision, hundreds of home restaurants have united to form HomeRestaurantItalia, giving life to the protest that quickly has enlarged and gained the interest of (here is the petition []). The request is simple: overflow the legislative system with support for the proposed law that has been sitting on the senate floor for over a year. Far from perfect, DDL S.1271 of Febrary 27, 2014 would give a clear and needed distinction between home and professional restaurants, identifying the former as “an activity which sustains not only the hospitality of a city, but the rich cultural history through its traditional recipes that give it character, without neglecting to improve the domestic life of a city. In short, it’s not just food, it’s social eating.

Hopefully, Italy will follow in the footsteps of the other European nations where the home restaurant business is not in competition with the professional restaurants, but rather a complementary feature

(similarly to how the bed & breakfasts are an alternative to the hotel industry). Home restaurants continue to proliferate uncontrollably, riding the raising wave of social sharing. To clip the wings of a phenomena which is bringing life back to the dying culture of homemade food is to deny the easily visible long-term benefits of social eating: creating new economic income, creating new jobs, and sustaining local culture. At this moment, it is possible to assist in the cause by trying the home-restaurant service which can still be offered by cultural associations. In Catania, we recommend Federico II, which not only organizes cooking lessons, but also lunches and dinners seated directly above the historic fish market “a Piscaria”.