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Piccolo Ristorante to Zagat: 'Take Us Off the List!'

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Photo by jchatoff, Flickr

A small item in today's Los Angeles Times mentions that Piccolo Ristorante has waged a campaign to get themselves removed from the Zagat Restaurant Survey, but the Zagat's won't budge. The tiny restaurant just off the Venice Beach boardwalk received a 27 in the 2008 survey for Southern California, which placed them one spot below Angelini Osteria and one above Tuscany in Woodland Hills. But owner Vittorio Vioni says the numbers "just don't add up." He tells us that Zagat ignored his first email and it was only after he sent the letters to the LAT and other publications that he got any response, which was at first "short and rude," but Nina Zagat herself eventually called to help rectify the situation. Tim Zagat tells the Times that Angelini's food rating was 27.0253, Piccolo's 26.8831 and Tuscany's 26.8325 and added: "[Piccolo's] obviously a very, very good restaurant. We would hate to not include it." Call it pride: Vioni cited U.S. right of privacy laws to Zagat, and still wants out of the book.


"Few months ago, we were browsing the 2009 Zagat Restaurant Survey Los Angeles, to see what they say about the others top rated Italian restaurants in Los Angeles, as we were rated the “Top Italian restaurant in Los Angeles for food” in 2007, but came in second this year. Doing a simple math calculation, we realize that we overall totaled one point more than Angelini Osteria: but they got the “Top Italian Restaurant for food” place in 2008.

Reading some more, we also discovered that the third placed restaurant (Tuscany, in Woodland Hills), scored even more points than Piccolo; and they should have got first place. We would accept any position assigned, if fairly evaluated.

In order to clear out the confusion, we decided to write a very simple email to Zagat, regarding their rating system and classification, inquiring what is the criteria they use. Few days later, someone wrote back to our email, very briefly and evasively stating that they cannot disclose their private policy rating system.

Maybe here it’s called “private policy rating system”, in Italy it’s called “mafia”. We never heard back from them.

Then, not so long ago, we received a call from someone at Zagat congratulating us that we were in the Best 1,000 Italian Restaurant in America issue, and telling us that we were going to receive boxes of free copies of that issue to give away, along with a certificate to be framed. Few days later we received those copies. Five hundred of them.

Naturally, we opened one box to check out one of the copies, and see what they would say about us, and if there was something different about this print; but in order to reach our little slot, we browse through the other pages, reading names of restaurant that we would have never compare to our style nor include in our level, or regardless, should have not been part of such a privileged list. A thousand restaurants it’s a lot of restaurants, but the top ones, are probably not that many.

We didn’t even get to the letter “P”, as we placed that one copy back in the box, and, one box at the time we went around the corner, in the alley by the large garbage bin, and toss the boxes inside. All five hundred of them.

Here, they probably call it the “Top 1,000 Italian Restaurant in America” issue, in Italy it’s called “money laundry”. Somebody paid for that. Somebody approved it. We didn’t. We weren’t offered an option, nor asked an opinion.

We immediately agreed that we don’t want to be part of any Zagat publications.

Thereafter, we wrote one more time to Zagat, requesting to be omitted by the next 2009 Zagat Restaurant Survey Los Angeles, and from any other future Zagat publications, internet included. Beside the automated reply, to this day, we have never heard back from Zagat. We felt disgusted for being part of such a publication, as we strive on providing our guests with an exceptional food and wine experience (pursuing the best products and preparations, the proper service, evolving our décor, and acknowledging new food and wine trends), doing overall the best we can in our little place: but then ending up rated or compared to restaurants (whom not even the name on the front door is Italian; in the sense that they don’t put the same love, passion and care for what they do, nor are serious about the service they are providing, and the job they are performing) where their surrounding demographic votes more, and highly then probably ours."
· Piccolo vs. Zagat [LAT]