Beer consumption in Italy has been relatively flat for decades but there seems to be an uptick, if not in consumption per se, then at least in interest. We’ve reported the University of Perugia’s center for beer research, but there’s something new in the center of Perugia. The name of the new pub is “Non c’era in centro” (There wasn’t [one, i.e. a place like this] in the center). The name is as awkward as the place is interesting. It has the modern elegance of an upscale wine bar, with a bright interior and colorful ceramic tiles attached to a white wall. But this place sells beer, not wine; or rather, it focuses on beer, as wine is available but seems rather marginalized.
The pub itself is part of a building that used to house Fabbrica Birra Perugia, which operated from 1875 until the 1960s, one of the many breweries which opened in that epoch, some of which are still open: Wuhrer, Forst, Dreher, and Peroni among them. While I found the food excellent (aside from too-sweet sauerkraut), this is not a restaurant review but rather (like our recent review of the Osteria di Pinocchio) a contextualization within Italian food history. The fact that a restaurant can open which both uses beer—foreign, artisanal, and even local artisanal—as its strong point, a place which offers pretzels and a variety of hamburgers as main dishes alongside the traditional fare available anywhere shows a pretty big shift in Italian food habits. The owner of Non c’era in centro has made a bet that there are enough culinarily bold Italians to actually fill his place most nights a week. Are the hamburgers exactly like they are in a hole-in-the-wall burger joint in the States? No, they’ve been “interpreted,” but that’s natural, unless one is obsessed with what I call “philological food.” I personally find this a refreshing change to the dominant “our cuisine is the best, period” attitude that has taken root in Italy in the past twenty years (fueled by too much fawning attention from American foodies). Kudos. ZN