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ROME (Reuters) - The Italian city of Lucca faced accusations of "culinary racism" on Tuesday after it banned new foreign eateries from opening in its historic center. The city council recently voted to deny new licenses to any bar or restaurant whose style of cooking was non-Italian within the Renaissance-era walls encircling the city center.
Tuscany's center-left regional government criticized the ban as discriminatory and warned against measures "introducing hidden forms of 'gastronomic or culinary' racism."
"The defense of quality is one thing, discrimination is another," Paolo Cocchi, the regional councilor for commerce, said on the region's website.
A spokesman for Lucca's town hall defended the new rules, saying they were meant to safeguard the city's traditional and cultural identity and that it also applied to sex shops, fast food restaurants and take-away pizza parlors.
"The ban targets McDonald's as much as kebab restaurants," he said.
The town council is also urging foreign restaurants to include on their menus at least one course typical of Lucca, prepared exclusively with local ingredients.
"It's an invitation, not an order," the town hall spokesman said.
Italy, which prides itself on its rich culinary tradition, has fewer foreign restaurants than other European countries. But their number has risen in recent years as increasing immigration has brought new culinary influences.
Lucca's spokesman said the four kebab shops already in the city center would be allowed to continue operating as normal.
Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Nick Vinocur