Right of Reply: Antonio Carluccio

The Italian chef, cookery writer and restaurant proprietor replies to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's characterisation of Tuscan food as `monotonous and ridiculously overpriced'

I AM sorry that Yasmin Alibhai Brown had a "dull" experience in Tuscany. At this time of the year Tuscany, and especially Florence, are real tourist traps. In fact most Fiorentini leave the city for the seaside. I don't know her reasons though for ridiculing Italian foods as being overrated and overpriced; she has obviously never had a freshly made buffalo mozzarella, which certainly doesn't need to be drowned in vinegar.

Regarding Italians' reverence for their own food, I don't find it a bad thing. Italian food is loved worldwide because it pleases both the palate and the body, and Italians are proud of this. The French show the same pride and I wish the British would do the same with their own food, which can be first class.

I never said in my book that I had yet to find "ethnic" cooking to beat the Italian cuisine. Feeling passionate about my home food doesn't mean that others are no good. In fact when I go out to eat in Britain I never go to Italian restaurants because I like to discover and taste the food culture of other countries.

As for Yasmin, she doesn't seem to know the Italian geographic and social divisions. Tuscany doesn't belong in northern Italy, but in central Italy, and there are enormous differences in the local ways of cooking. I assume from her comments that she didn't have a proper Bistecca alla Fiorentina, which is indeed a gargantuan 1kg T-bone steak. A true Fiorentina comes from Val di Chiana (a valley near Florence), where the special beef is reared, and its taste and texture is divine.

I am sorry Yasmin feels she will have to take popadums and chillies with her the next time she visits Italy. When I go to visit my friends in India, I will certainly not take porcini and parmesan!

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