Rome - Food lovers and chefs in Italy and beyond are urging restaurants to serve up more pasta all'amatriciana in a move to support the quake-hit hometown of the hearty dish.
The rustic food, made of tomato sauce with pork jowl and topped with pecorino cheese, comes from Amatrice, which was destroyed by this week's earthquake and the idea is for some of the proceeds to go to help the devastated areas rebuild.
Residents in the medieval hilltop town had been preparing to host a yearly food festival this weekend dedicated to the dish. Instead, they will be burying the many dead men, women and children killed before dawn on Wednesday in the violent quake. Altogether, three towns were devastated, with 267 people killed, 207 of them in Amatrice.
Now some food lovers hope that they can at least harness the symbol of the devastated town that lost the most for a good cause.
Italian food blogger and graphic designer, Paolo Campana, launched an appeal on Wednesday, saying on Facebook that "We have to move fast."
"Pasta all'amatriciana is a symbol," he told The Associated Press on Friday. "So I decided to use this symbol to help."
He has asked restaurants to put the dish on their menus and donate $2.25 per dish sold directly to the Italian Red Cross, which is participating in relief efforts in the affected areas in the Apennine mountain region of central Italy. One € would be donated by the customer and one by the restaurant.
He says he knows it's not a lot, but that if many people take part it could make a real difference.
Since his appeal, other voluntary initiatives have been cropping up in Italy, even in regions where the dish is not typically eaten. The effort has also gone international.
British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver said on Facebookon Thursday that he and 700 chefs at his Jamie's Italian UK restaurants, an international chain, will be serving up pasta all'amatriciana and donating $2.65 per dish sold to help the rescue effort in Italy.
Oliver told his Instagram followers that "this could really make a difference", and that money will go to firefighters, camps, food, clothing and medical assistance.
"I think we can easily make thousands and thousands of pounds (dollars) to help," Oliver said.
Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food International, which promotes traditional cooking with sustainable ingredients, has also called on restaurateurs worldwide "to put the symbolic dish of this devastated town on their menus".
The effort is also generating interest on social media under the hashtags #virtualsagra and
The heart of the yearly pasta festival, called a sagra, was the local Hotel Roma, which had a restaurant which served up the dish.
Now the hotel is in ruins, with several people killed under its rubble.
"Let's hope that it [Amatrice] will be reborn again," Luca Palombini, the assistant chef at Hotel Roma, told the AP on Friday, speaking from the San Salvatore Hospital in L'Aquila, where he was recovering from a broken foot.
"Amatriciana will be even better, the Spaghetti all'amatriciana. I hope it will be reborn and that we will move forward, even better than before."