In movies (The Godfather), television shows (The Sopranos) and even music (all rap except for Will Smith), people love the entertainment value of the mobster lifestyle. So back in 2000, restaurateurs in Spain decided to open a gangster-themed Italian restaurant called La Mafia. The concept was a huge success, eventually expanding to 39 locations across the country with more set to open in the future. But Italians who found the idea offensive had a hit out for this Spanish La Mafia all along, and a recent EU decision is set to bring the whole organization down – or at least force it to change its name.
According to Spain’s The Local, last week the European Union’s Office of Brands and Design, part of its Office for Intellectual Property, accepted a complaint from Italy about the use of the word “mafia” in the restaurant chain’s name with one report stating that use of the word is “contrary to accepted principles of morality.” “The EU must now stop the commercial use of an infamous ‘brand,’ which exploits stereotypes of mafia organizations, oversimplifying and almost normalizing it,” said Roberto Moncalvo, president of the Italian group Coldiretti which has fought to keep companies from using the word “mafia.” “This phenomenon has brought pain and grief throughout Italy.”
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For Americans who grew up watching Oscar-winning movies like The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, the idea that a mafia-themed restaurant could be offensive might seem strange unless the food was as bad as The Godfather Part III and Sofia Coppola was cast as your waitress. But in a 2014 article in the Independent, one of Italy’s veteran Mafia writers Attilio Bolzoni lent some perspective. “Can you imagine what would happen in Spain if Italy opened a pair of restaurants dedicated to terrorists from ETA?” Bolzoni asked. Italian Democratic Party MP Macro Anzaldi had an even more dramatic suggestion: “Perhaps we ought to start distributing leaflets outside these Spanish establishments to the families that go in, which show that child victim of the Mafia who was strangled and dissolved in acid,” he was quoted as saying. “The Mafia isn’t what you see in the Coppola film, the Mafia is an aberration and we can’t allow it to become Italy’s global brand.”
Reportedly, La Mafia has yet to comment on the EU’s ruling. Maybe the owners could change the chain’s name to “La Union Europea” – a theme restaurant where every order get scrutinized by a group of international bureaucrats?
[h/t The Daily Meal]