Today, May 22, is national Fish and Chips Day in Ireland, when you can get a takeaway meal at your local chipper for half price. But… it only applies to the Italian chippers, as these are the original chippers. They might display a sticker like this in the window to show they’re part of the crowd.
Names you see around the country, like Borza, Libero, Aprile, Macari or Romayo are a marker that you’ll get a decent meal – if you’re into huge portions of fried food, as many Irish people never seem to tire of.
The first chipper in Ireland was started by Giuseppe Cervi who – sometime in the 1880s – mistakenly got off the America-headed boat at Queenstown (Cobh) in Cork and walked all the way to Dublin where he eventually started up a fish n chip shop . He might have picked up the idea of fried fish from England, where it had been popular since the 1860s with greater availability of fresh fish inland. One story says that Cervi started frying up potatoes by accident, thinking he was frying chestnuts. His chipper in what is now Pearse Street was a big success, and his wife Palma was known for starting the phrase “one and one”, still used for ordering in Dublin today as she would point at the menu and ask a customer what they wanted – “uno di questo, uno di quello?”
The majority of Irish chippers we know today were founded by families who arrived in the 1950s – amazingly – from around the village of Val di Comino, in south of Rome. The ties have remained in place and if you travel around that area now you might find Irish-registered cars and some auld fellas playing bowls in the piazza speaking with a broad Dublin accent.
Whether Irish chippers serve up better food than British chippies is a debate for another day. But today, help yourself to a half-price fry-up if you pick the right place. Don’t even think of heading to the famous Burdock’s down by Christchurch, Dublin’s oldest-surviving chipper (1913). It might be world-famous… but it’s not Italian.
Here’s the full list of chippers taking part.
There’s also a full-length documentary on Italian chippers by Nino Tropiano, I haven’t watched it yet.