Photo by jeff caires from the Torontoist Flickr Pool
High-end pizza joint Terroni needs to get over itself. With three locations in Toronto and one in Los Angeles, the owners mean to bring a taste of the southern Italian old country to the West, but one element that is hardly Calabrese-like is the excruciatingly tedious attitude.
As reported in the September issue of Toronto Life, simply asking for some cheese on a fish pasta dish at the Queen Street location spurred an icy rebuke from the server, who condescendingly sighed, “That’s not how the dish is served.” When the customer then offered to use the grater instead, sparing the server from the indignity of sullying such flawless fare, the denial held firm, forcing the customer to pick parmesan off the plate of a companion.
The unjustifiable pretentiousness is echoed in a blog post by Torontoist reader Rahul, who experienced a similar incident at the Adelaide Street venue. As the food arrived and the server was grating fresh cheese and pepper for the table, a woman in the dinner party requested some for her pizza. Refused. Terroni only allows grated parmesan on pasta dishes, not pizza. To add insult to, uh, insult, eating out was a rare occasion for this customer to enjoy cheese: due to her young son’s severe allergy to dairy, it wasn’t allowed in her household.
After unnecessarily having to explain this to the server, who then had to appeal to the manager, the dinner guest was allowed some cheese “this time, but don’t expect it again in the future.”
These don’t seem to be isolated incidents. Internet consumer reviews recount the restaurants denying loads of simple, uncomplicated requests—cutting the pizza, omitting items for allergies, extra sauce, no onions in a salad, butter instead of olive oil for bread, and even extra water.
Restaurants often employ a “no substitutions” rule in order to keep the kitchen efficient, prevent certain tastes from clashing, and to avoid difficult customers “reinventing” the menu. Even fewer—and Terroni is not in this category—are legendary for the work of a famous chef, and therefore eating entirely at the master chef’s whims is a pre-established privilege. Still, there are salt and pepper shakers on the table for a reason: because customers have autonomy over their own taste buds, and wish to fully enjoy the meal which they are paying to have prepared for them.
More ponderous than Terroni’s unyielding and arrogant ban on all substitutions is the tableside humiliation that comes with it. Your companions may gladly accept cheese hand-grated across their dishes, but how dare you be so ignorant to compromise the integrity of your pasta puttanesca by asking the same! If your eight-year-old brat wants butter on her bread, haul her boorish palate to Olive Garden. Sure, pizza is most conveniently consumed in slices, but any true Italian food aficionado could navigate a rock-hard thin crust pie with a butter knife and not create a spectacle of crusty shards and grunts! Also, by questioning the chef’s indefectible personal taste, you’re obviously an uncultured asshole, so allow us to make that perfectly clear to your dinner associates.
Southern Italians are known for their friendliness and hospitality, and ironically, “terrone” or “terroni” is actually a slur directed at a southern Italian, seen as poor and unsophisticated by the more affluent northerners. Italians take their food deadly seriously, and Terroni founders Paulo Scoppio (now deceased) and Cosimo Mammoliti proudly boast humble beginnings and southern Italian heritage, yet it’s difficult to imagine a true southerner refusing to oblige a guest at his table. Infamnia, Terroni.
Bottom photo by youngthousands.