Italy's ambassador to Britain has launched a withering attack on the "Hawaiian pizza" tendency which, he says, typifies the second-rate food which is served in many Italian restaurants here.
Luigi Amaduzzi urged diners to boycott restaurants where they were offered inferior ingredients and dishes which bore little resemblance to authentic Italian cuisine.
Mr Amaduzzi said British palates had been corrupted by "average" restaurants serving culinary horrors such as pizzas topped with chicken and pineapple - or even curry - and mozzarella that does not come from a buffalo.
The ambassador declined to name specific restaurants, but criticised chains, such as Café Pasta, which were "not owned or run by Italian staff".
He said: "We have an enormous number of so-called Italian restaurants and it is a huge problem. I am very well aware that many restaurants call themselves Italian and are not Italian because their chefs are not Italian and their produce or recipes are not Italian.
"The majority of Italian restaurants in London are very much average and we must ensure a good standard. Customers must refuse to pay for something inferior.
"If a chef puts pineapple on a pizza, the result is far from the traditional Italian taste of mozzarella, tomato, basil leaves and maybe a small piece of anchovy. Even the kind of pizzas that are considered 'Italian' - which have salami or prosciutto toppings - are all new additions. Some of these I don't like. I tend to be traditional in my tastes. Food is an art. It should be about creativity but within limits." He also made clear his dislike of the ham and pineapple "Hawaiian pizza" as well as other non-Italian recipes.
Mr Amaduzzi's remarks follow a drive by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to check the authenticity of the 60,000 so-called Italian restaurants and pizzerias across the world in an industry worth an estimated £17.5bn a year.
The ministry estimates that only 20 to 25 per cent of outlets will meet the required standards to earn a sticker saying they are genuinely "Italian". The scheme, which requires inspectors to visit each Italian restaurant, is due to be launched in Britain this year after being tried in Berlin and Brussels.
To meet the standards, a head chef must be trained in Italian cuisine and have at least one Italian-speaking member of staff. It must also guarantee that a minimum of 80 per cent of dishes served are traditional Italian recipes, that 60 per cent of wines, cheeses, meat and biscuits are Italian and that all peeled tomatoes come from Italy.
Mr Amaduzzi said the initiative would improve the standard of Italian cuisine in British restaurants. He told The Sunday Telegraph: "Italian cuisine is simple, healthy and low in fat, but because it is simple, the quality of ingredients is essential. The inferior quality of ingredients used over here is one of the reasons Italian food tastes different."
The ambassador, who leaves his London post next month, urges dissatisfied customers to stop frequenting substandard restaurants.
"The restaurant prices are high enough in this country. Dissatisfied customers should not go back if the food is bad and expensive. The force of the free market is stronger than any kind of bureaucratic initiative," he said.
Mr Amaduzzi conceded that, although there was much bad about Italian restaurants in Britain, there were many excellent Italian restaurants in London, including the Michelin-starred Locanda Locatelli, San Lorenzo and Carluccio's, the restaurant chain owned by Antonio Carluccio.
Mr Carluccio, the author of several Italian cookery books, said the Italian government was guilty of paying politics with food. He said the Government should promote Italian food on television and educate people about its origins so "people can make up their own minds what they eat".
Pizza Express, which owns Café Pasta, was unavailable for comment.
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