Fortezza Medicea, a restaurant located in highly secured jail in Volterra, Italy, is giving prison food a whole new meaning. The prison-run restaurant delivers five-star flavors that people are raving about. Tuna tartar, pate, sweet wine and strawberry cake are just a few of the delicious items found on the menu.The waiting list for a reservation is endless. This may be the only circumstance where people are desperate to go to jail.
Prison officials are aware of the risk that comes with having people walk in and out of the facility. Customers are required to make reservations months in advance so that the prison can do a thorough background check on each person on the waiting list. Once customers are given the awaited “go to jail card,” they arrive in the prison where they’re phones are confiscated and they’re pockets are given a TSA-like pat down.
Meals are held in a beautiful chapel which was once part of a 14th-century castle. The breathtaking scenery is matched with plastic cutlery for security reasons. Inmates ditch their prison uniform and dress to the tee. Wearing bow ties and button-downs, these waiters offer top-of-the-line customer service.
Founders of the restaurant knew that its unique location would attract loads attention. They initially intended to use the restaurant as a way to raise money for charity. Later, inmates and prison officials realized that Fortezza Medicea serves a double purpose. Inmates build their CV with work experience and learn about customer service. Those who finish their sentence leave Fortezza Medicea qualified to work for the most excellent restaurants in Italy. Working after prison ultimately keeps ex-inmates off the streets and out of jail. Prisoners with longer sentences say that working as a waiter increases their quality of life. They’re not spending their days stamping license plates in orange jumpsuits. They spend nights smiling and interacting with customers. Inmate and waiter, Arena Aniello, has been in jail since 1993 for homicide. He explains that “Prison life is like a photocopy machine. You leave your cell; you go to work, you work out. The day is always the same; it becomes a habit. So this is a great thing.”
Diners may show up to get a taste of prison, but what they don’t realize is that they’re offering the prisoners a break from a mundane routine and a desired taste of the outside.