Dalkey restaurant with 'Il Duce' theme has its owners in the zuppe
LARISSA NOLAN A CONTROVERSIAL new Italian restaurant in Dublin - themed on fascist dictator Mussolini - is ruffling international diplomatic feathers.
Newly opened Benito's restaurant in Dalkey has caused much debate amongst the Italian-Irish community as it is named after the dictator, has a photograph of him on its walls and serves up such dishes as Insalata Il Duce.
Owners Camillo and Jackie Borza have made it clear that the whole idea is just a joke, but while some Italians accept this, others find it hurtful and offensive.
Now officials from the Italian Embassy in Ireland are to make a report on the restaurant, to be sent to the Department of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Rome.
Italian Embassy charge d'affaires in Dublin, Andrea Lepore, said that due to the provocative nature of the restaurant and the stir it is causing, he will be compiling a report on the matter.
"It is a subject of Italian interest, so I will inform my office back in Rome of this," Lepore said.
"However, there will be no action taken on it from the Italian side, as the restaurant is in Ireland, so we would have no business interfering. "If it was in Italy, it would be closed as there is a law against promoting fascism in any way." The charge d'affaires confirmed that the Embassy has not received any letters of complaint about Benito's.
But one person who will be taking action is Fabio Perozzi, a fellow Italian restaurateur in Dalkey village.
Perozzi, who owns Ragazzi restaurant close by, told the Sunday Independent that he found the theme of Benito's very hurtful and said he did not think that it was funny to make a joke of a fascistwho murdered many people. He plans to write a letter to the Borzas outlining his feelings, which he believes represent those of many people in the Italian-Irish community. And he will also write to the Italian Embassy about it.
"A lot of people would be hurt about this. There are people who still cry over the atrocities of Mussolini," saidPerozzi.
"Maybe the owners do not fully understand this. "I would say to them - don't bring this bad culture here. I don't have a problem with the name, as there are many Benito's, not just Benito Mussolini.
"But it is not good to have a photograph of him on the wall or to have dishes on the menu named after him. If they changed this, then there would be no complaint.
"I am reluctant to speak too much about this as I don't want to seem like a person who is put out because a new Italian restaurant has opened.
"It is not that at all, as my own restaurant is very successful. But I am genuinely hurt by this."
Camillo Borza told the Sunday Independent that the restaurant theme is simply tongue-in-cheek humour and that he and his wife Jackie deliberately kept references to Mussolini to a minimum so as not to offend.
"It is a provocative thing but it is not meant to be offensive. We're not fascists, the whole thing is a joke. Mussolini's reign was a long time ago now, so very few people would be upset and we have had no objections so far.
"We are not focusing on this and instead, the main priority is to provide good food at good prices in comfortable, atmospheric surroundings."
His wife Jackie added: "Camillo is Italian himself, so if anybody can joke about it, he can."
Food critic Paolo Tullio agreed.
"I can't see anyone being insulted by this; Mussolini was hanging upside down by his ankles by the early 1940s, so very few, if any, Italians, could remember that time. I'll be looking forward to trying it out."
Benito Mussolini ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943 and turned the country into an aggressive, war-hungry nation.
The Mussolini theme has not affected business at the 50-seater restaurant, which is hugely popular and full almost every night of the week.