May 23/Rome/Guardian -- One is a famous Italian food brand that has been in the same family for four generations. The other is one of the biggest burger chains in the world. McDonald's and the Parma-based pasta maker Barilla have now joined forces to bring a touch of the Mediterranean to a Big Mac and fries.


In a partnership that reflects the conflicting currents of the globalized food market, branches of McDonald's in Italy will from Friday offer a €4.90 pasta salad described as pennette pasta with "a balanced and skilful mix of tuna, tomatoes, peppers, capers and olives, seasoned with a pinch of oregano and salt."

For the U.S. company, which in Italy has previously flirted with local produce including parmesan, mozzarella and speck, the partnership is aimed at veering away from global standardized menus and "Italianizing" itself. For the 136-year-old powerhouse from Emilia-Romagna, the world's leading pasta maker, it is a fresh sign of its desire to expand into new markets.

Claudio Colzani, chief executive of the Barilla group, said the pasta salad was bringing the McDonald's repertoire "ever nearer to the Mediterranean model of eating." Roberto Masi, his counterpart at McDonald's Italia, said the launch was "a key step on the process of embracing the tastes, flavours and habits of the Italians."

However, the move may provoke sniping among the gastronomes of the country that spawned the Slow Food movement and is fiercely proud of its cuisine. Italy's biggest-selling daily paper, the Corriere della Sera, remarked that the "strange alliance" between Barilla and "the icon of Yankee catering" went "well beyond the purely commercial." "These are two worlds colliding: quality and speed, tradition and modernity," it wrote.