by Ian Fisher
Last month, Gambero Rosso, the prestigious reviewer of restaurants and wine, sought out Rome’s best carbonara, a dish of pasta, eggs, pecorino cheese and guanciale (cured pig cheek; for the aficionados, pancetta is not done) that defines tradition here.
In second place was L’Arcangelo, a restaurant with a head chef from India. The winner: Antico Forno Roscioli, a bakery and innovative restaurant whose chef, Nabil Hadj Hassen, arrived from Tunisia at 17 and washed dishes for a year and a half before he cooked his first pot of pasta.
“To cook is a passion,” said Mr. Hassen, now 43, who went on to train with some of Italy’s top chefs. “Food is a beautiful thing.”
Spoken like an Italian. But while much of the rest of the world learned about pasta and pizza from poor Italian immigrants, now it is foreigners, many of them also poor, who make some of the best Italian food in Italy (as well as some of the worst and everything between).
With Italians increasingly shunning sweaty and underpaid kitchen work, it can be hard now to find a restaurant where at least one foreigner does not wash dishes, help in the kitchen or, as is often the case, cook. Egyptians have done well as pizza makers, but restaurant kitchens are now a snapshot of Italy’s relatively recent immigrant experience, with Moroccans, Tunisians, Romanians and Bangladeshis at work.