Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Stir Fry

Ala Prigionese:
At the candlelit tables inside a deconsecrated chapel of what was originally a 14th-15th century castle, the meal itself is eaten with plastic cutlery.

But even though this is the Fortezza Medicea top-security prison, the white wine - Fattoria Sorbaiano - keeps flowing.

"The standard of the food is fantastic - the atmosphere, the people, and the place is incredible," said diner Sharon Kennedy, a resident of Volterra but originally from Scotland, who came to sample a special dinner at the prison.

The inmates at the jail in the picturesque Tuscan town - surrounded by rolling green hills and brown-tiled villas - have swapped their slacks for shirts and bow ties for a night. They are cooking up a sumptuous meal for curious diners who want to sample a taste of prison life.

Part of a project raising money for charity, the aim is also to teach cooking and waiting skills that could help the prisoners find work when they are released.

The scheme, for several nights a year turning the prison into a restaurant, began in 2006.

...."It is not just a distraction, it is more than that," said 39-year old inmate Arena Aniello. Originally from Naples, he has been in jail since 1993 for homicide: tonight, he is a waiter.

"(Prison life) is like a photocopy machine - you leave your cell, you go to work, you work out - the day is always the same, it becomes a habit. So this is a great thing."

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