Sustainable cuisine: what to do?

More vegetarian restaurants or more vegetal dishes? The analysis in Lisa Casali’s column

12-07-2014
The second article on Lisa Casali’s Green column

The second article on Lisa Casali’s Green column, focusing on the important topic of including vegetal ingredients in the restaurant offer. This image, as the others illustrating this piece, are taken from her book Ecocucina (Gribaudo, 2012) and were taken by Claudia Castaldi

The demand for vegetarian and vegan dishes is constantly increasing, despite still representing a niche. Some people stand on one side, others on the opposite one, some try to adapt their offer, some simply pay no attention. Is it really necessary for a chef or a restaurateur to take sides when it comes to vegetarian or carnivorous preferences?

Some chefs who participated in The Vegetarian Chance such as Carla Aradelli (Riva in Ponte dell’Olio, Piacenza), Mario Gagliardi (sous chef at Cascinalenuovo in Isola d’Asti), Alberto Quadrio (second at Asola in Milan), Matteo Rizzo (Il Desco in Verona) proved the opposite: despite not offering an exclusively vegetal cuisine, they are giving increasing space in the menu to vegetal dishes, without totally renouncing to meat and fish.

According to Rapporto Eurispes 2014, 6.5% Italians is vegetarian, 0.6% is vegan, but the percentage of people who want to limit the consumption of meat and other animal products for health, ethical, environmental, economical or simply taste related reasons is much higher. If in the restaurant courses were created, studied and capable of competing, as for taste and presentation, with those based on meat and fish, it is possible that many more people would choose vegetal alternatives without necessarily having to make a radical choice in their diet.

Of course, it is not just a question of what people order in a restaurant, but also of the daily choices made, in particular when buying groceries. Why is the theme of giving more attention to vegetal ingredients so important? First of all, because they are healthier, and secondly because of the environment: they imply a lower consumption of natural resources, a lower pollution and contribution to the greenhouse effect. For most people, sustainability is not the first thought when they sit at a table, but if the best choice for the environment also coincides with the healthiest one and is appealing, nutritious and interesting it is very likely that it can become the favourite choice for many.

This does not mean that meat or fish should disappear from the menu, but they should return to be a holiday dish, for special occasions, like in the Sixties when people would eat 13 kg of meat and 9.9 kg of fish per year, instead of the double quantities registered since the Eighties. The evolution towards a carnivorous diet around the world is a very current and important theme, and it will be essential during EXPO 2015, because there’s an increasing risk of a food and environmental crises linked to the impoverishment of natural resources and to the increasing problems linked to pollution because of the production of these foods.


Eating less animal products but of a better quality would lead people to give these more value and to be more prone to pay more for a cut of meat produced by excellent breeders, for example. These issues would make people sell a little less fish and meat to restaurants but could allow them to offer these at a more sustainable price, with positive consequences for the entire supply chain made of famers, artisans, breeders who work with commitment and passion offering us excellent raw materials.

In the kitchen of the future there will be more and more space for vegetal dishes and dishes made with raw materials, capable of blending health and sustainability and those who will have invested the most by offering a larger choice to their clients will certainly collect the fruits.


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Tecniche, ingredienti e iniziative della ristorazione attenta all'ambiente e agli ideali di Expo 2015, viste da Lisa Casali