The rules around our food can be extremely nuanced and incredibly complicated. What might make perfect sense to one diner might be total blasphemy to another, depending entirely on who they are and where they’ve come from. In many cases, issues over how we eat what we eat can get resolved relatively quickly and calmly. There are, however, some notable exceptions.
As anyone who enjoys perusing the comments every time that Twisted post a new lasagne recipe will tell you, Italians can be fiercely patriotic when it comes to their cooking. Unless you want to bear the full force of an angry internet onslaught, there are certain things that you just can and can’t do with Italian food. Carbonara, for instance, should not contain cream. Pasta should not end up in a deep fat fryer. And, perhaps above all, seafood should never be served with cheese. Some rules are not made to be broken.
It is this zealous outlook on eating that prompted one of the most caustic and unintentionally hilarious exchanges that TripAdvisor has ever seen. Late last year, a visitor to the Maximo Italian Bistro in Kennington, south London, left a scathing review of the restaurant, citing concerns over the standard of service. In particular, the angry customer described an exchange where, having asked for a sprinkling of parmesan on his crab pasta, the waiter simply refused to facilitate the request, instead stating that, “you do not put Parmesan cheese on seafood as it would take away the flavour.” In a one-star report, the customer concluded that the service was “second to cow-dung”. This, it turns out, would not be allowed to stand.
In a response that has now been seen around the internet, owner Massimo Donato took the chance to “educate” the about the “ABC rules” of “authentic Cucina Italiana”. He did not hold back. Outlining his opinion as clearly as possible, Donato said diners should “NEVER ask for pineapple on pizza; NEVER put cream on your Carbonara; NEVER ask for any Alfredo pasta (who is Alfredo anyway?); NEVER put chicken on arrabbiata,” finally concluding that customers should, “last but not least, NEVER NEVER EVER ASK FOR CHEESE ON A FISH DISH.” Donato’s response also invited the unhappy customer to “try parmesan on cow dung - it should taste fine for you”.
It did not take long for the exchange to find fame on Twitter, where commentators were deeply divided over the original review and the response. Many voiced support for Donato, with one stating that they had “absolute tears of respect” for the owner and several more labelling him a “legend”. Others, however, felt that he had been wrong to belittle the customer and that guests should be able to enjoy their food however they see fit. Wherever you fall on the argument, it’s abundantly clear that, depending on where you’re eating, Italian food is full of potential pitfalls for ignorant customers.