Celebrated Roman chef Massimo Riccioli talks to WiR following his recent assault at the Pantheon.
Chef, tell us about the attack on you the other night. Was this an isolated episode, or was it part of an ongoing situation?
Fortunately I was able to avoid the worst of the blows. It was one of the homeless people who are almost always outside the restaurant. He was obviously drunk, and attacked me after I had complained about the continual shouting and disturbances that these gentlemen cause every day in Via della Rosetta, with nobody stopping them. Fortunately on this occasion the municipal police were there and intervened at once.
What’s your opinion on the services and the quality of life that the centre of Rome can offer tourists and residents?
Well, obviously this situation of deterioration, which isn’t being resolved by wither the city administration or the forces of public order, is causing severe problems for my activity. This is why I’m so exasperated.
Have you seen any improvement in recent years, or has the situation worsened?
The situation around the Pantheon is continually worsening: trash, people being molested, rudeness, tourism of the very lowest economic level that is ruining the beauty of the piazza and the surrounding area. Now that a new McDonald’s is going to open, the situation is sure to get worse. There’s considerable discomfort for the residents, since the majority of apartments are now rented by Airbnb, destroying the soul of the borough and the quality businesses like our restaurant, with 53 years of history. After having lived through the entire history of our restaurant, I can state that the situation has been getting worse and worse over the years, and not only under the present city hall.
Chef, you have lived and worked abroad. What are the pros and cons of living and working in Rome?
Yes, I’ve worked abroad and what I’ve noticed as different in Rome is that there’s no policy, no strategy or organisation for tourism. Too many things are being left with no management, or are being handed off to people with a stake in seeing Rome turned into a low-quality tourist trap. I believe anybody who makes a profit from tourism in Rome should pay their taxes and respect the rules for hygiene and health care, and the rules for stocking food and drinks that businesses like ours are obliged to follow – with expenses that force us to adjust our prices in line with those in other European capital cities. The particularly low costs in Rome have led to overcrowding in the city, with all the problems of waste management, traffic, transport and security that are impossible to resolve.
Many people, ordinary citizens or business people, are leaving Rome to live somewhere else. Do you blame them for this? Or, if not, why not?
I can well understand the business people leaving Rome to take up their residence and jobs in other parts of Italy or abroad, simply because of the need to operate in a reality that pays attention to all these things I’ve already mentioned. But also for the simplicity and quality of life that we are losing in Rome.
What are your favourite Roman dishes?
I really love the Roman cuisine. In general, it’s one of the most interesting of the country. Although I’ve specialised in fish dishes, I’ve included several Roman dishes in my menu.
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Interview with celebrated chef Massimo Riccioli
Ristorante la Rosetta S. R. L., Via della Rosetta, Rome, Metropolitan City of Rome, Italy