Mafia-Themed Food Gifts Spark Outrage With Italian Farmers

Leave the gun, take the cannoli — and the mafia-related branding with it. For years, the mafia has been glamorized in movies, media, and, most recently, food. The Guardian reports that mafia terms have been utilized as a marketing technique to sell food products, like Chilli Mafia sauce and Cosa Nostra whiskey, for years.

Meanwhile, restaurants, cafes, and shops across the world have used mafia lingo thematically to create mob-inspired dining experiences. In New Jersey, you can even visit a mafia-themed restaurant — The Kitchen Consigliere — owned by a convicted mobster (via Time Magazine). Such restaurants are not met without controversy; North Jersey news questions the rise of mob-themed eateries, pointing to a slew of Italian restaurants across America's northeast. There's been a Mob Burger, as well as a GoodFellas pizzeria, not to mention the many Sopranos-themed spots.

Clearly, the mafia has long been tied to food. Restaurants serving up Italian cuisine tend to employ mafia lingo tongue-in-cheek, though mafia history isn't without a culinary component. There's even a connection between the mob and artichokes. However, many feel that using the mafia to market food items takes branding a step too far. Italian farmers have begun to speak out about the dangers of violent stereotypes, pointing to the insensitivity of marketing with mafia lingo.

Sicilian farmers cite offensive nature of mafia stereotypes

Coldiretti, an association of Italian farmers, has had enough of the mafia branding. According to The Guardian, the association found that nearly 300 restaurants outside of Italy have been using mafia-related names and themes. Many labels play off The Godfather, The Sopranos, or Goodfellas — sensationalized movies that popularized the mafia in American media.

"Continuing to associate Italy with these mafia stereotypes and criminality is hugely damaging to the country's image," said Alessandro Apolito, a Coldiretti branch manager. "But the most significant issue is that it is an offense to the victims of the mafia as hundreds of innocent people have been killed by the mafia or suffer from its criminality."

Apolito pointed to Palermo — Sicily's capital -– as a victim of the marketing offenses. Many Palermitani have been brutalized by mafia violence. Across Sicily, there's even an Addiopizzo movement, which has seen the islands' shops, restaurants, and businesses stand up to extortion. Likewise, Palermo's No Mafia Memorial sheds light on the island's mafia violence, acknowledging the past rather than ignoring it.

Such efforts are undermined by mafia branding, which Coldiretti wants to remove from culinary products. "It's scandalous to think that somebody could buy something of this kind, even if it's only for a joke," said Apolito. "For us, joking about such serious things like the mafia is unacceptable."