ROME — During the heady days of la dolce vita in the 1960s, Rome's Cafe de Paris was one of the preferred watering holes of starlets and sultans.
Later, one of the places that gave the world the word "paparazzi" fell into decline along with the rest of Rome's famed Via Veneto. Two years ago it hit bottom when police discovered it was a Mafia money-laundering front.
It marked a rebirth in mid-December when, in association with one of Italy's leading anti-Mafia groups, the famed sidewalk cafe and restaurant started serving wines, pasta and other foods produced on lands confiscated from the Mafia throughout southern Italy.
Now, visitors to Rome can eat and drink to the Mafia's bad health in the same place that inspired director Federico Fellini to make the classic 1960 film "La Dolce Vita," while helping Italy's anti-Mafia movement.
"The new administrators want the cafe to offer products that are not only good but just," said the Rev. Luigi Ciotti of the anti-Mafia group Libera, which runs cooperative farms on lands confiscated from the mob.
"This has great significance because this turns the whole situation of this place on its head," he said in the cafe that was one of the places from where Marcello Mastroianni's journalist character set off to cover the jet set with his trusty sidekick photographer, Paparazzo.
Patrons can order red wine from the Centopassi cooperative near Corleone, the Sicilian hill town made famous in the "Godfather" films, or eat pasta made from wheat grown on property confiscated from organized crime near Naples.
Most of the staff at Cafe de Paris today are too young to remember the days of la dolce vita, but the workers have all seen the film and are happy to work in a place that is part of movie history.
"La Dolce Vita," starring Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg and Anouk Aimee, was considered scandalous at the time of its release but is quite tame by the standards of today.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun