Tempers ruffled as Italian group defends honour of rare white truffles

The Alba white truffle association, based in the heart of Italy’s truffle country, is campaigning to defend the image of the rare fungus as a dispute involving a restaurant bill heads for the courts.

The association is reacting to media reports that an unnamed top executive refused to pay a €4,000 (£3,530) bill after dining on white truffles with five guests at Milan’s Michelin-starred Cracco Peck restaurant.

Chef Carlo Cracco – author of White Truffle Utopia – said that his restaurant refused to accept the anonymous businessman’s offer to foot half the bill or that there was any confusion over the weight or price of the truffles before the diners began eating. Cracco said the party of six consumed about 300g of truffle, which cost €10.90 per gram.

“They did not want to see the menus. They just said: ‘We want the truffles’,” he said, adding that they picked two large ones and were duly informed of the weight.

The diner said the truffle had not been weighed, newspapers reported, without giving details on his identity.

The media attention comes at a time when the economic downturn threatens luxury spending and the purveyors of the expensive truffle are keen to keep their customers.

The Alba truffle association is to press for a code of conduct for restaurants with truffle dishes on their menus.

“All the media hype about this dinner is damaging for the truffle,” said Roberto Ponzio, the Alba truffle association’s lawyer. “It has created a link in people’s minds between truffles and nasty surprises at the end of a dinner.”

Located in Langhe, the hilly southern area of the Piedmont region, Alba is the main area for white truffles – the most prized variety of the underground fungus. The town, which has a population of 30,000, has held an annual truffle fair in autumn for nearly 80 years.

“We are comfortable with the price the restaurant charged,” said Alberto Cirio, head of the Association for the International Fair of the Alba White Truffle, which organises the annual event. “But we want to make sure we avoid misunderstandings in the future.”

Mr Cirio said the association would encourage restaurants to agree on a set of rules to make sure truffles are weighed and grated on the dishes in front of the clients, with the price on display. reuters