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Grana Padano
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I have to confess it and get it off my chest; among the pile of lies I’m guilty of, I’m also guilty of false reporting! I know it’s shameful. I really regret that I’ve dragged the names of two colleagues of mine into the witness protection programme. At present, I’m writing from an undisclosed place. Tripadvisor and Zagat are among the best-known pages which allow you to review restaurants of more or less the whole world, and they aren’t the only ones, the Web are full of them.

Recently in Italy, polemic was unleashed in some magazines, “restaurants against on line reviews”! Some restaurants literally threatened class action against a webpage. The problem is the business manipulations. Positive false reviews are a juicy present for the restaurant together with its purveyors of restaurant quality foodstuffs. Generally anonymity, which these pages guarantee, makes them the victim of a discrete number of false reviews made for reasons of fraudulence as for others. There’s the individualistic competitor who places poisonous reviews, but then also chefs and restaurateurs who in the guise of guests under improbable pseudonyms fix themselves in fantastic reviews in order to report the rating their own restaurant to be one of acceptable level.

The problem of false reviews is still easily solvable with technical devices. The real question is whether these pages, regardless of the false ones, are acceptable.

On one hand, Giuseppe Zanotti, chef of il Falcone, one of the best restaurants of Minsk, Byelorussia, keeps the restaurant full all day every day, but it’s far from being in first place and he considers it to be a problem. On the other hand, Francesco Torelli, chef of the Figaro restaurant of Irkutsk, Siberia, is Number 1 on Tripadvisor and other pages. In his case, Francesco obviously thinks that the pages are acceptable. Donato De Santis, celebrity chef in Argentina and chef of the Da Donato restaurant of Buenos Aires and Ignazio Podda, executive chef of the Sandal Resorts in Jamaica demand the right of not appearing on Internet pages of undemonstrated seriousness.

The question is complex and multifaceted: the zone, the type of restaurant, the average age of its guests, the number of reviews and so on. If this system doesn’t always rub chefs or restaurateurs well, then neither do gastronomic critics. Accustomed to digest professionally even the worst plates, this competition from the barbaric hordes of pseudo-critical gastronomists without licence and seen as not possessing the necessary competence, proves, let us say, indigestible to them.

But are we sure then that that’s the way it really is? I don’t think so. Some of a restaurant’s guests acquire the right and therefore the competence of judging the quality of service received. Certainly, professional reviews are something else; writing them is not for just anybody, among other things, competence and dedication are necessary. To conclude, it’s possible to think that, in a not-so-distant future, there will be specialised webpages which will reach such degrees of seriousness, acceptability and more than anything else, the number of reviews which could rival and beat the most highly acclaimed traditional guides, if not in terms of prestige, certainly in terms of popularity and commercial return.

Let us welcome the Barbarians...


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