May 28, 2010 / 10:04 AM / 9 years ago

Italian clans mark years of frying fish for Irish

DUBLIN (Reuters Life!) - The Borzas, Apriles and Mizzonis all hail from a valley halfway between Rome and Naples and still form a tight community in their new home, where they have just celebrated 125 years of making fish and chips.

Through a quirk of history, a group of families ended up making a living cooking very un-Italian food for the Irish.

Their newly formed Irish Traditional Italian Chipper Association (ITICA) organized a national “fish and chips day” to help raise its profile — not that the dish needs much advertising to a nation in love with grabbing some fast food on the way to and from the pub.

Dubliners seemed to approve of the initiative. A bit of a discount easily convinced people to dip in on Wednesday for “fish and chips day,” when ITICA members offered the culinary delight for half price.

Some chippers actually ran out of fish by the end of the day.

“It’s a part of Ireland, isn’t it really, although they are Italians doing it,” said Jane Maher, a regular customer at the Ferrari chipper near the mouth of the River Liffey in south Dublin.

Italians have been engaged in the trade since the 19th century, but the majority arrived in Ireland — and some in Scotland — looking for work after World War Two.

They quickly adapted to local tastes, making freshly cut spuds and fish key parts of the menu alongside such items as batter sausage and the spice burger, a crumb-coated delicacy said to be one of Ireland’s few culinary inventions.

Peter Borza, who owns a chip shop further south in the well-to-do seaside suburb of Dalkey, said their fare might not be the healthiest choice but it is something people should treat themselves to once in a while.

“We don’t say that you have to eat it every day,” said Borza, who has several relatives running similarly named outlets around Dublin and who is one of ITICA’s leaders.

“It’s a fun food,” he told Reuters. “Some people have it after a pint or before a pint. It kind of goes with a day out. If you have it once or twice a week it will do no damage.”

Back at the Ferrari, another regular customer Paula Daly said she preferred to eat it at home, rather than on a night out.

“At the end of the week, just relax and get fish and chips,” the maternity hospital cleaner said. “Sitting at home, with a nice mug of tea.”

Editing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Steve Addison

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