Look around the kitchen of Filippo La Mantia's hip restaurant in downtown Rome and you'll see oranges, fresh basil, olive oil. But no garlic.
"I will never use garlic!" declares the Sicilian chef as he demonstrates how to make a flavorful pasta dish -- octopus linguine with orange juice and almond pesto -- without the ingredient he hates.
A quintessential element of traditional Italian and Mediterranean cooking, garlic is at the center of a gastronomic dispute in this nation that prides itself on its food. To critics it is just a stinky product that overwhelms more delicate flavors. Admirers say garlic enhances taste, gives a dish an extra punch -- and is also good for the health.
"Garlic is the king of the kitchen," says Antonello Colonna, another prominent Italian chef. "To eliminate it is like eliminating violins from an orchestra."
Critics have started a ferocious campaign for garlic-free dining, and the debate has moved out of culinary circles. Corriere della Sera, Italy's top daily, devoted a page to the matter this week, listing celebrities in each camp under the headline: "The Crusade of Garlic Enemies."