McDonald's near Vatican stirs supersized controversy

A lawsuit is being filed to block a McDonald’s from continuing to operate in Rome. That’s because of its location – right outside the walls of Vatican City. 

There are a number of little trattorias around the Vatican where you can get classic Roman dishes like carbonara or cacio e pepe. But now you can get a classic dish of a very different sort: a Big Mac, reports CBS News correspondent Seth Doane.

Michelangelo helped design the glorious dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. Now not far from that famed dome are modern arches – the golden arches.

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For four generations Manuel Tosti’s family has had a restaurant across the street.

“McDonald’s is producing a lot of problems,” Tosti said. “It’s a multinational that has the same food everywhere – whereas we do pasta – that’s famous around the world and typical Roman dishes.”

In an interview with Italy’s La Repubblica, Cardinal Elio Sgreccia called the arrival of the fast food chain a “disgrace.”

Pope Francis – who incidentally once used a Bolivian Burger King to change into his religious vestments – regularly rails against consumerism. But the Vatican is in on this deal, said to be receiving more than $31,000 a month in rent. This McDonald’s is a tenant in one of the many Vatican-owned buildings surrounding Vatican City.

McDonald’s certainly sticks out on these quaint, ancient streets. From it you can see St Peter’s, even the window where the pope speaks, and around the corner is another piece of Vatican property that now hosts a different restaurant chain.

Hard Rock Café opened a store on Via della Conciliazione, the grand boulevard which leads to St. Peter’s Square.

Near the Vatican, some are pragmatic – it is an inexpensive meal, after all – and there’s a little perspective.

“I think there are more serious problem in the world,” Father Alessandro said. “There are greater scandals.”

But Italians are bracing themselves for another food-chain scandal. Starbucks has announced plans to open in Italy, the land of small mom-and-pop coffee shops – and so far, not a single Starbucks.