On many of my tours, American clients have asked me about what they’ve noticed as a Florentine cultural taboo against taking home a doggie bag from a restaurant. Let me clarify something, it’s not that Florentines would be embarrassed to ask for a bag in which to take home uneaten leftovers from a fine restaurant, it’s simply that they would RATHER LAY DOWN AND DIE than do such a thing . Why? Let me introduce you to the concept of the Bella Figura – which means, “making a good impression,” or “putting on a good face.” The same impulse that drives women and men to shave and accessorize before going to the corner grocery creates an atmosphere unamenable to the doggy bag (even the name is brutta figura).
When you go out in public, you are not only representing yourself but also your entire family. If you ask to take food home from a restaurant – even that 40 euro bistecca that there is no way you can finish – in the mind of a Florentine you might as well be saying, “my father is a bum and mother is a prostitute who raised us to beg on the streets.” Or at the very least, “I am poor and don’t have enough to eat at home so I need to bring home parcels from restaurants.” For Italians, poverty is an all-too-recent cultural memory and they will chase it away using everything they’ve got, from that finely cut Zegna suit to a strand of pearls to a prophylactic spritz of of Versace cologne.