Le’Maiala is the first barter restaurant in Florence. It is the only place where you can bring items such as vegetables, fruits, olive oil or wine from home and exchange it for dinner at a nice restaurant. The way it works is you call to make a reservation and let them know what you will be bringing) especially if it is large quantities). When you get there, the waiter will assess the value of your items and compensate you for that amount of your check. In turn, the kitchen will use these items to create dishes that they will then serve at the restaurant. It is a win-win for everyone!
For example, I took four pieces of fruit with me when I went to dinner. My waitress saw the fruit and said it is worth 5 Euros, which would be enough to get a free dessert. I ordered from the menu, which offered authentic Italian selections, such as Pici Con Le Briciole (fresh pasta sautéed with garlic, olive oil and fried bread crumbs) and Brasato Al Chiati (filet of steak slow cooked in red wine). At the end of my meal, 5 Euros was deducted from the total check.
The concept of Le’Maiala came about as a result of the economic crises, which is hard hit in Italy. Le’Maiala literally means “the situation is serious.” The owners of Le’Maiala wanted to emphasize on old ways of exchanging goods and services, where everyone was dependent on each other, and economies were small yet sustainable. They also thought it would be a good way for the public to share extra food they produce, grow or have left over. It avoids food waste and earns you a free meal.
The restaurant said they don’t get very many people to take advantage of their offer, but many local farmers and businesses visit with couple of cases of wine or a basket full of fresh vegetables in exchange of a nice dinner. I know if I had a restaurant like Le’Maiala near where I lived, I would be a regular. My herb and vegetable garden produces far more than me and my neighbors can consume, I frequently shop at Costco and have large quantities of items I don’t need, and then those endless bottles of white wine bottles pile up after a party – all of which can be reused for some good eating!
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