Head To Prison For the Food

The Lempert Report
March 30, 2016

In Milan a new restaurant concept opened. It’s called InGalera.

In our movies, books and television shows, prison food is a running joke - barely edible, bland in color and according to the inmates practically tasteless. In the Netflix hit, Orange is the New Black, the prison kitchen and dining hall play major themes for the story. Dining trends come and go. Eating food in complete darkness to savor each bite by alerting senses you didn’t realize you had. Food raves, where what’s for dinner, at midnight, is a surprise. Fads like eating rattlesnake or other exotic and rare proteins like pan fried insects may come and go, but in Milan a new restaurant concept opened. It’s called InGalera and is located within the Bollate prison walls. InGalera actually translates in English as “in prison.”

It’s open to the public, has its own wine cellar and aside from the chef and head waiter, all the cooks, waiters and staff are prison inmates who actually receive salaries, who by law are not able to receive actual money but can transfer it to their families or use it while on special leave.

Now before you get concerned about the safety of eating in prison, you need to know that that this prison is what is called an open-cell prison where inmates can walk freely and encouraged to join work release programs. In fact the idea actually came back in 2004 when a number of former bakers, cooks, pizza makers, and waiters happened to serve their sentences in the new Milan jailhouse and the warden, Lucia Castellano urged them to participate in preparing the foods for inmates. He then reached out to a friend, Silvia Polleri, a veteran of high-end catering for the Milanese upper class, to start the business. PwC the accounting firm, financed the restaurant. While only open a few weeks, one waiter, just 23 years old feels its a life changing experience.  “Customers see me only as their waiter, period. They don’t judge me and I feel like they treat me like an ordinary person. This is a new experience for my life in jail and something that I can feel proud of with my family on the outside.”