Philly chefs weigh horsemeat despite European scandal - and 1 threat

STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Chef Adam Cirineo may soon be whipping up dishes that feature horse meat, an authentic Italian delicacy, at the Sicilian restaurant Monsu in Bella Vista.
STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Chef Adam Cirineo may soon be whipping up dishes that feature horse meat, an authentic Italian delicacy, at the Sicilian restaurant Monsu in Bella Vista.
Posted: March 06, 2013

FOR DECADES, Philadelphians have chomped on cheesesteaks and noshed on soft pretzels. But could city residents actually develop a palette for horse meat?

Chef Peter McAndrews thinks so. He recently announced plans to serve the equine delicacy at his Sicilian restaurant Monsu in Bella Vista, even as European food outlets deal with fallout from the discovery of horse DNA in beef products.

"I like the idea of being an authentic Italian restaurant. When I heard the ban was lifted, I was very pleased," McAndrews said, referring to the ban on horse slaughter in the United States, which was lifted in 2011, when Congress reinstated federal funding for U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection of horse meat.

The reaction to McAndrews' decision has been strong, to say the least. The chef said he has gotten plenty of feedback, most in opposition, including one threat.

"The guy said, 'If you serve it, we're gonna blow the place up,' " McAndrews said. "I hope it's just a threat, but it's a little odd to me that people have so much care for animals . . . but they're willing to injure people and property for a cause that they have, which I think is more absurd."

McAndrews said he first ate horse in Italy, where it is commonly served. He plans to feature it in appetizers to help customers get used to it, but he has been clear that if it doesn't sell, it won't last.

But the larger question is, could horse meat become a new trend in local dining?

Francis Cretarola, owner of Le Virtu, an Italian restaurant on East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia, said, "We're interested in anything that deepens our authenticity, that would present to people in Philadelphia something like an authentic Italian dining experience."

Cretarola, grandson of an Italian immigrant, said he has no plans to offer horse, but speculated that there could be a market for it.

"There's a large group of people out there who are really sort of intrepid and adventurous diners, and they would certainly want to have the experience. There are also people who, for reasons that are obvious, are attached to horses," he said.

Chef Marc Vetri told the blog Foobooz that he had eaten horse meat in Montreal and would "love to serve it," the blog reported.

"Seriously, who decided what animals to eat and not to eat?" Vetri said. "Is a horse better than a cow or a rabbit? [I] really don't get all the fuss."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals used the issue to highlight the slaughter of other animals.

"Let's not limit our outrage to the slaughter of horses when more than 16 billion equally sensitive and wonderful animals are killed and eaten in the U.S. every single year, the vast majority raised and even transported in abysmally cruel ways that would horrify even Attila the Hun," the group said in a statement.

McAndrews said he has not found a suitable horse-meat purveyor, but he believes the idea could catch on at other Italian restaurants.

"If we can give the public something that's very Italian," he said, speaking collectively, "we're interested in that."


" @ChroniclesofSol

 

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