When people think of Italy, they think of sitting on the sunny patio of an Italian Trattoria, enjoying delicious wines, perfectly paired with freshly made pasta – but what if the fresh “lasagna al forno” you’ve ordered is as fake as the plastic grapevines decorating the veranda?
With nearly 60 million visitors a year, Italy is the 5th most visited destination on earth, and tourists coming for fresh food might be surprised to find that their meal came out of a freezer-burned box. In Italy, food is serious business, and the Italian legal system is cracking down on the fakers.
The Italian supreme court has ruled that restaurants that plan to sell frozen foods need to label those menu items or face a fine. Although restaurants can sell frozen foods, attempting to sell it to unsuspecting customers can result in a hefty fine, and even jail time.
Restaurants hoping to capitalize on trusting tourists have been passing off frozen foods as fresh and pocketing the difference for years. No longer, as a judge rules that simply having frozen food in your restaurant without informing diners on the menu is considered attempted fraud.
In 2015, One restaurant in Milan was found to have freezers full of food in its kitchen during a routine restaurant inspection, although the restaurant made no mention of this less than traditional food preparation on their menu. In the resulting court case, the 51-year-old owner appealing the €200 fine claimed that the food found in the freezers during the inspection could not have been served to customers, because there was no one in the restaurant at the time of the inspection.
Of course, the top Italian court called shenanigans on the restaurant owner and increased his fine to €2,000 euros instead. The judge ruled that simply having frozen food in the kitchen was enough to constitute fraud, and the chef’s appeal was rejected. This ruling is great news for tourists planning to enjoy authentic Italian culinary experiences, as they can rest assured that presiding judge Emanuela Gai is defending their taste buds. The message sent by the court is clear – if food served in an Italian restaurant isn’t labeled frozen, it better be fresh. Buon appetito!