Ragusa. From hunger at the end of the 1950s to the beginning of the economic boom of the 1960s

G.The 1950s are unanimously considered by historiography as the period during which our country, although defeated by a long and bloody war, managed, despite countless difficulties, to become one of the most industrialized nations of the West. In particular, the years of the so-called economic miracle, the five-year period between 1958 and 1963, leave an indelible mark on the social and cultural fabric of the nation. Numerous factors influenced this radical transformation, first of all the end of the self-sufficiency regime that revitalized the Italian production system, forcing it to modernize, The Marshall Plan, which allowed the influx of American machinery and know-how and finally the role fundamental carried out by large national conglomerates such as Enrico Mattei’s Eni, Iri and Edison, for the progress of the petrochemical industry and the production of synthetic fibers and fertilizers.

The social outcomes of the economic miracle are equally varied and complex: think of the massive migratory flow from South to North, the massive exodus from the countryside to urban centers, as well as the sometimes definitive abandonment of pre-industrial ways and lifestyles . However, the real revolution of the 1950s is represented by a substantial increase in material well-being, thanks to the access by an ever-growing slice of the population to that sphere of leisure (Leisure) previously completely unknown to most people. Thus consumerism, made possible by Fordism, or by the automated mass production of consumer goods, becomes the key word to define this era. It is therefore not surprising that even the diet of Italians undergoes a series of decisive changes. If in agricultural and pre-industrial Italy bread was the main food of the majority of the population, during the 1950s the identifying food of the entire country became pasta: agnolotti, bucatini, macaroni, penne, spaghetti, as long as it was pasta. , topped with tomato sauce which for Sunday lunch becomes even ragù. The most famous gastronomic scene of Italian cinema dates back to 1954: Alberto Sordi who can’t help himself in front of a plate of spaghetti in An American in Rome.

Another important aspect is represented by the introduction of household appliances, which will end up radically changing the eating habits of Italians. However, the time of frozen food is still far away, so only in spring are peas on the market, just as eggplants, peppers and tomatoes are available only in summer. Furthermore, the lack of highways and easy connections does not allow food mixes, so the Christmas panettone is a rarity for the southerners; pesto can only be tasted in Liguria, and to eat a real pizza you have to go to Naples. For this reason, the diet of those years was totally based on local, seasonal and fresh products. But as mentioned above, the real leap, both economic and cultural, was favored by the advent of household appliances, first of all the refrigerator, which became a real fetish for all the housewives of the time; the first, marketed by Fiat, are without a freezer, white in color and with a rounded and rounded design.

In 1958, Citterio introduces sliced ​​meats to the market in vacuum-packed trays, thus begins the slow but unstoppable decline of an all-Italian ritual: the cutting of hams in front of the customer by the butcher; the butchers, where skilled craftsmen had dedicated themselves until then to the glory of the pig, are beginning to close, replaced by supermarkets; the first, created by Supermarkets Italiani, which was then mostly owned by the American tycoon Nelson Rockefeller, opened in Milan, in Viale Regina Giovanna, in 1957. Here it is possible to find products such as tomato in a tube, which decreed the success of the Mutti brand. and the Bucaneve Doria, flower-shaped biscuits with sugar icing and a central hole. And then the Motta panettone, the bouillon cubes, the soups in cans by Cirio, the Simmenthal cans, the American crackers, the Ambrosoli honey candies, the Strega liqueur.

Meat is also beginning to be consumed, albeit in modest quantities, in compliance with the high-protein diet imported from the United States. And when, on solemn occasions, you want to eat outside the home, you go to a restaurant, a true reference point of the gustatory memory of the time. Here the costs are modest and the flavors intense. The landlady prepares the food, while the husband brings the dishes into the dining room. The specialties of the trattorias are regional dishes.

1960s: nationalization and xenophilia

A new Italy was born, a homegrown expression of an American way of life all about shopping and consumerism: in the kitchen this was translated, on the one hand, with the rush to buy foods once considered “rich” and become mass, celebrated by newborn television and now within everyone’s reach thanks to the first supermarkets. The boom in the consumption of beef – always a symbol of well-being, until a few years earlier – is there to testify, as well as the affirmation throughout the national territory of dishes once considered regional, such as pizza and various types of pasta. . A sort of “literacy of taste” or “Italianization of the table” – after all, these are the years of Alberto Manzi and It is never too late – which after all “the Italians did” much more than they had dreamed a century earlier our fathers of the Risorgimento. But there is also the flip side: “old” home-made foods begin to be viewed with contempt and to be sacrificed on the altar of packaged and industrialized food, a trend that will radicalize in the 1970s.

But let’s see what are the 10 symbolic dishes of the 60s.

  1. Double butter fettuccine

The first supermarkets, but also the dairies in Northern Italy, are full of the fat par excellence of those years: butter. This ingredient is practically everywhere, and already from the previous decade it had made its mark in Roman cuisine and then arrived in Sicily as well. In the 60s, the double butter tagliatelle of the Il Sorcio restaurant in Donnalucata (Scicli) can be considered a symbolic dish, a recipe born in 1908 but which after 1960 will experience its maximum splendor.

  1. Straw and hay tagliatelle with ham, pancetta and Tuscan pecorino

This typical dish of Tuscan cuisine, in which part of the tagliatelle is produced with spinach puree, began in the 60s to leave the regional context and to establish itself throughout the country. The original dressing? Bacon, ham and Tuscan pecorino. The age of cream is still far away.

  1. Canned meat salad

Packaged and cheap meat: it is the heir to the “cans” of American soldiers, and for Italians still struggling with food shortages it is a kind of dream. We are talking about canned meat. Advertisements of the time recommended it along with lettuce, tomatoes and a splash of lemon juice.

  1. Spreadable cream

What would Italy be without its Nutella? The most famous of the spreads, based on gianduia, was born in Alba in 1964. Its success was immediate and from it many recipes were born. The most famous? The penguin with nutella and the biscuits with coconut and nutella.

  1. The Florentine steak

Ancient dish, the Florentine steak. And yet, up until that time, top quality beef was a practically unattainable luxury: only with well-being, the steak, Florentine or otherwise, will establish itself as a mass dish. In the 60s and 70s, the consumption of beef, a symbol of the much desired well-being, reached record levels. A first turnaround will take place only in 1982 with the overtaking of pork, previously demonized by nutritionists.

  1. The milk

“Drink more milk / milk is good for you / milk is worthwhile / for all ages! / Drink more milk / Italian product / sovereign remedy / of all ages “. So went the obsessive tune of the Fellini-based Boccaccio ’70. That persecutes poor Peppino De Filippo struggling with the provocative manifesto of a prosperous Anita Ekberg. But from Gianni Morandi to the dairies, milk is one of the new symbols of well-being like meat, emerging from the traditional mountain consumption areas. And ice cream, especially industrial, will only be one of its tastiest manifestations.

  1. The snacks snacks

Among the symbols of the new food styles are packaged snacks, those snacks that will drive young and old alike crazy. An example? The Fiesta, another Ferrero invention.

  1. Sandwich and picnic

In neo-urbanized Italy, the watchword on Sundays is picnic: the sandwich is rediscovered, which the most xenophiles prefer to call a “sandwich”. But the most extremists resort to heavy baked pastries so as not to forget the scents of home …

  1. Meatballs with sauce

Damn meatballs with sauce. The first stirrings of well-being, cheap meat and the latest wave of migration to the United States will transform them into one of the symbols of Italian cuisine abroad. So much so that it even ends up in spaghetti, feeding stereotypes that are not exactly edifying for our gastronomy and our country.

  1. Pineapple cake

The desire for the exotic already runs through Italy, and so here is the pineapple cake, particularly successful at Christmas and the surrounding area.

My food memory year 1967 “Il Gelato”

You will remember very well how a song by Lucio Battisti begins “The gardens of March” but let’s sing it together again: “The cart went by and that man shouted ice creams, at the twenty-first of the month our money was already finished …”. What to say? A story that no longer exists (the itinerant ice cream maker) and a story that repeats itself (the money that runs out before the end of the month).

I have no particular memories, even if I have been told about them, of the cart carrying ice cream. I bought the ice cream with my friends as an ice cream maker who went by with a motor vehicle with three wheels and sold ice creams and lemon granita, it came under the house at a minimum cost of 10 lire (a very small cone) then 20 lire (medium cone ) 50 lire (ice cream in a glass … you had to bring the glass from home) it all seemed very tasty and nobody dared to complain …


A very common proverb tells us that “it was better when it was worse” meaning that the news does not always lead to improvement. More simply I think it is a regret for the past times. Regret understood as nostalgia, as something that has escaped us and slipped away over time.

Taking a cue from Massimo Catalano (musician and TV personality) and his surreal aphorisms (“Better to live well with two pensions than bad with only one”, “Better to be promoted in June than rejected in September”, “Better to be young, beautiful and rich than old, ugly and poor “) I would say that it is appropriate to say” It was better when it was better “.

There were real social relationships, respect for teachers, clean air, widespread well-being, low public debt, little traffic and no stress, united families, etc.

We were free and more modern than today and above all without limitations in our relations with the environment. The neglect and abandonment of the territory we did not even know what they were, we could only imagine the monster of the repressive bureaucracy through horrible nightmares.


Salvatore Battaglia

April 26, 2021 | 09:23

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