12.23.2006

HH Com 359

“Only the European Union could send an English health and safety inspector to the heart of Rural Italy.” So says Lorenzo Campagno, patriarch of the family-run village restaurant in remote Santo Stefano. For years he and his children have kept the restaurant open against the prevailing forces of globalization and depopulation, and the restaurant remains at the centre of
village life.

Enter restaurant inspector Philip Shuttleworth: fussy, eccentric, and very English. His inspection is picky, but highly critical, and the restaurant is given two months to reform or face a fine that would put them out of business.

Stunned, the family set about revamping the restaurant and its menu to meet the requirements of the report. But the clinical approach demanded by the inspector does not go down well with the customers. As the villagers start to abandon the restaurant, their own communal life falls into decline. To make matters worse, Lorenzo discovers that the inspector has befriended his
daughter when he catches them together in the restaurant kitchen.

With the restaurant struggling to attract customers, the return of the inspector imminent, and the village’s very soul under threat, Lorenzo and his family urgently need to find a way to keep the restaurant and the village alive.

This is a hook.
The only quibble I have (and it wouldn't keep me from reading pages) is wondering if the inspector is hanging about town (befriended his daugher when he catches them together) or if the inspector is not there for the duration of the novel (return of the inspector imminent).

This is an old trope but it's got a fresh twist with the EU thing.

19 comments:

Bernita said...

It taken a whole village to raise a restaurant?

Anonymous said...

As someone who used to work in restaurants, I can't see being interested in a book about a restaurant struggling to come up to code.

And if the restaurant is the centre of the village, why isn't the village in support of the proprietor?

I'd like this as a comedy, with everyone pulling pranks on the fussy old inspector. But that's just me.

BuffySquirrel said...

In the sequel, does the United Nations send a weapons inspector to a sushi bar in Texas to tell them how hot they can have their wasabi?

Virginia Miss said...

I like this premise. It would work very well for a comedy of manners. For me, a novel doesn't need to have the fate of the world at stake. Food, Italy, and an eccentric Englishman: if the writing flows, I'm there.

Luc2 said...

This is a good idea, and may interest many readers, IMO. Many EU citizens have problems with globalization and a loss of national and regional identity, and the setting of a family restaurant in Italy could work very well for this.
Nice hook!

Adinda said...

Oh, this sounds really nice, I'd love to read more of it.

M. Takhallus. said...

Include some recipes.

shannon said...

These kind of stories make for good reads - Maeve Binchy, for example, or all those Scottish/Irish/Welsh tv shows like Hamish MacBeth (ooh Robert Carlyle yum - ugh, stay on track!)

It sounds promising, and a foreign setting makes it quirky. The health inspector character sounds a bit cliched, being "fussy" and "eccentric" and "very English" - yet who is somehow attractive enough to interest the restauranteur's daughter. Hm. But I like stories that use one angle or theme or location or situation to depict a larger problem, especially when you really feel for the characters. It's very timely.

katharine swartz said...

Based on what I've experienced of the EU when I lived in England, I'd make the inspector French. Or German. Or Belgian. Interesting and possibly funny idea--depends on the style, but I like the modern twist on an old premise.

Anonymous said...

I like this a lot.
Only thing that tripped me up: "...picky, but highly critical..." Since picky and highly critical are similar, I don't understand the "but".
Other than that, I was happily drawn in.

Heatheness said...

Hmm. A town called SANTO Stefano? In Italy? Not in Spain or South America, but in Italy? Unless it's a fantasy novel and all this takes place in an alternate universe, the word is going to be SAN.

See, I don't know, maybe I'm just Ms Naive Sicilian Sillypants, but I couldn't possibly forgive the usage of Santo and then go on to read the book, unless my British boyfriend had first told me to, because as a rule in all things, Italians defer to the British. /ridiculous fake sarcasm.

There were a couple of other things in the hook that didn't translate into Heathenese, but I'm telling you, SANTO just about killed me.

One example is that UK citizens CHOKE the Italian countryside every year on vacation. It's not at all like one wouldn't otherwise be caught dead there, unless they were working on an assigment, no, not even for the powerful, village-annihilating Restaurant Inspector Corps.

Nor is international dating forbidden, or even frowned upon. On the contrary, it's encouraged. It means another one can get out.

Hey, maybe this could be a proposal for a TV show instead. "BASTA! The Extreme Restaurant Makeover - Italian Countryside Edition!"

(Although, take all my words w/ a big flake of salt. I'm only laughing at myself here, because really, BASTA, as a project, is something about a million times more likely to sell and make money than any lame little lit book I produce.)

dt said...

There's a major problem with your premise: the restaurant would never be the center of the village's life- the church would be. I've lived in Greece for 18 years, and although the local cafe in the villages here are a hangout, the village would survive just fine without it- the loss of the church, however, would kill the village.

rudynostalgia said...

And of course, Huge Grant plays the inspector in the movie.

December Quinn said...

I agree, Shannon. Made me think of Maeve Binchy, and I loves me some Binchy, so I'd love to read this.

Anonymous said...

I'd read it! Iron out the kinks, add some subplots (maybe a few locals are members of the Slow Food movement - have them describe their unique cheese, or whatever), and I'd definitely have a gander. Only warning: do not overdo the English=cold, Italian=warm cliche. Italians (and I have genes and culture from both countries) can be stand-offish and suspicious, while English can be very hospitable, kindhearted, and open. Mix and match!

M. Takhallus. said...

Writer:

Ignore the naysaying. The premise is fine -- it's a fantasy, it doesn't have to read as literally true. You might want to put the village in Sicily or Sardinia to get more rustic.

And I'm serious: include some original recipes. Do your research and get some down home recipes -- it will give you a hook for promotion. You may have to go Italy. (Boo hoo.)

tomdg said...

Author here.

Thanks everyone (especially Miss S) for the comments. I feel really encouraged by this. Obviously I have the advantage of having read the book, so I know that, for example: Philip actually lives just a few miles down the road, and only works in the immediate area; the novel is about people, not the technical jargon of inspections; and Lorenzo's biggest objection to finding Philip and Sophia in the kitchen is that she is teaching him to cook one of the restaurant's best recipes. But how to get all that across in a hook ...

There is a Santo Stefano in Abruzzo (the region where the novel takes place) - although it's not the model for my village. Maybe I should change the name though. "Fiction is under the obligation of being believable; real life is under no such obligation."

I'm glad M.Takhallus mentioned recipes. I had the same idea myself - Fried Green Tomatoes does the same thing. I just need to do a bit more research to find the right dishes to use. The things we suffer!

Ski said...

Well...I'm lost here. To the Author - you've obviously interested the person who matters. If you don't mind I am gonna try and learn from what you've written and from the advice of our beloved Miss Snark. Thanks in advance, and Good Luck.

Rgds.........Ski

Anonymous said...

hey heatheness you idiot, there are tons and tons of towns in Italy called Santo Something! c*zz*, ma non sei mai stata in Italia, o cosa? perche mi sembri veramente ignorante, e non sto bestemiando provocato dalla tua stupidezza solo perche non voglio che Miss Snark mi tagli questo... ma vai a cercare sul yahoo.it e vedrai quanto sei schema!

(The Italian was completely clean, Miss S - I'm just pointing out that she's an uninformed idiot...)