Rome’s Jews reject Israel artichoke dictat
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Rome’s Jews reject Israel artichoke dictat

The Chief Rabbinate has said local delicacy does not adhere to kosher standards, but Italians aren't having it

Artichokes being cooked (Pepperedjane/Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)
Artichokes being cooked (Pepperedjane/Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Rome’s Jewish community is embroiled in a standoff with Israel’s top religious authority after the latter declared the Eternal City’s cherished dish of “carciofi alla giudia” (deep-fried whole artichoke) not kosher.

The crisp golden delicacies are a specialty of the Roman-Jewish cuisine and a prominent feature on menus.

But Israel’s Chief Rabbinate said the method of cooking the artichoke whole made it impossible to clean properly and it didn’t therefore adhere to kosher standards.

“The heart of the artichoke is full of worms, there’s no way you can clean it,” said the head of imports of Israel’s Rabbinate, Yitzhak Arazi, in an interview with the Haaretz newspaper.

“It can’t be kosher. It’s not our politics, this is Jewish religious law.”

But Rome’s Jewish community has rushed to defend its beloved dish.

“We’ve been eating this dish prepared this way for 600 years,” said Umberto Pavoncello, manager at Nonna Betta, a kosher restaurant in the heart of Rome’s Jewish Ghetto.

“I’m a little worried about the souls of all the people that have been eating them over the centuries, I hope nothing bad happens to them,” he joked.

Pavoncello added that he believed it was “very unlikely” that there would be any insects inside the artichoke and that Nonna Betta would “continue to serve them.”

“The declaration comes from the Israeli rabbinate but locally every community has its own rabbinate which can decide for itself, there is no central authority,” said Pavoncello.

And local authorities don’t appear to want to give up their prized artichokes.

In a recent video wishing the Roman Jewish community a Happy Passover, Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni and President of Rome’s Jewish community Ruth Dureghello, can be seen carefully preparing the artichokes for the traditional dish.

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