Manchester food reviewers stung in pizza PR stunt – as Northern Quarter’s La Pizzeria Ristorante serves up supermarket slices

By David Keane

Manchester was promised another slice of Italy in the opening of La Pizzeria Ristorante last night – yet it soon emerged that all was not as it seems.

The pizza bar – open for one month only – claimed to hark back to the Northern Quarter’s ‘Little Italy’ roots during the industrial period.

MM were suckered in by the PR guff here too.

Bloggers, journalists and food reviewers flooded the launch event to grab a slice.

Yet after munching down thin base pizzas laden with pepperoni, ham and cheese and chicken, nodding enthusiastically, they were in for a big surprise.

If you thought you’d tasted it before, you probably have. It was eventually revealed that all the pizzas were by Dr Oetker, available in most major supermarkets for only a couple of quid.

You’ve probably got one at home in the freezer – you needn’t have come out.

Their handout read (see pic below courtesy of NQManchester): “We hope you have enjoyed your visit to La Pizzeria Ristorante.

“All the pizzas you have eaten today are available in the freezer department of your local supermarket.”

A sly but very successful publicity stunt? Or a crafty underhand tactic that will make everyone that bit more skeptical than they already were?

However Peter Burling from Brazen PR, the team behind the stunt, was keen to emphasise that they had not deceived anyone, and in fact they just wanted to show the quality of the pizzas.

“We certainly didn’t lie, we just didn’t say it! And the branding is all over the place when you walk in, so it’s not hard to spot. It’s testament to how good the pizzas are that some people didn’t actually notice!

“No one left saying they didn’t have a good time, so that’s the main thing really.”

Twitter was awash with both sentiments as realisation dawned last night.

@Damo_dee from Manchester tweeted: “So someone invited loads of foodies to an opening & served them Dr Oetker pizzas? Ha! In the words of Danny Dyer – proper mugged off.”

Tweeter @GoodGobbleBlog didn’t think Dr Oetker had done themselves any favours however.

“I wouldn’t call it a success, essentially a lot of people are laughing at them now,” they tweeted.

They panned the original promotional literature, which claimed the pizzas only contained the highest quality ingredients and had a ‘unique’ deep pastry crust, as full of ‘lies and half truths’.

“I’m ashamed of you Dr Oetker,” they said.

But as Franco Sotgiu tweeted: “Warhol said about publicity ‘don’t read it, weigh it’.”

Thom Hetherington of Northern Restaurant and said: “It appears Dr Oetker humiliated a whole swathe of N4 foodie hipsters last night. All those prostate exams, and he’s not even a real Doctor!”

Food blogger The Hungry Manc was one of those ‘hood-winked’ by the stunt.

“I guess the joke is on those that attended. Good job we’re actually able to see the funny side,” he wrote.

“Certainly we all got suckered in to going along as nowhere in the lead up was the actual sponsor of the place declared and yes the clue might have been in the name but when you consider that the longstanding restaurant below tends to pride itself on quality, you could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps they hadn’t just seized the opportunity to grab a quick buck.”

Blogger Bacon on the Beach had mixed feeling about how to interpret the event on their blog here.

“In reality Dr Oetker really thought that this would be good publicity for their brand. Obviously it went disastrously wrong for them and backfired. Absolutely nobody there was fooled into thinking they were good properly made pizzas whatever their PR people say,” they wrote.

“Not all publicity is good publicity, I can confirm to you now that Dr Oetker pizzas do indeed taste like totally shite supermarket pizzas, crap, dry and processed, but they gave us a real laugh and a memorable night out, so I thank them for that!”

Dr Oetker is a German-owned food company but serves up pizzas cooked not as far away as you’d think – just off the M6 in Leyland, Lancashire, to be precise.

It accounts for £16million worth of pizzas sold each year and is the favourite Italian pizza sold in… wait for it.. Italy.

Brazen’s Peter explained how they had to choose between London and Manchester to host the month-long pop-up restaurant.

“We explained to the company that Manchester was the place for it. We knew Manchester would be more receptive to this.

“Good on Gary from The Market Restaurant [which it is situated above] for letting us use the space, but he did take some convincing. In fact, he wouldn’t agree to let us use the area until he had tasted the pizzas himself!”

Peter acknowledged that despite all the posters and Dr Oetker literature about the place, some food bloggers did only realise as they were about to leave the venue, much to their suprise.

“That shows the real quality of them as a frozen pizza. It’s the best quality you can get and the fact some people didn’t realise just underlines this.”

The pop-up remains open for a month, with a £10 dinner option including pizza, salad, starter and drink of beer, wine or soft drink and a £4 lunch option.

“We’re not deceiving anyone here, and we’re not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes,” Peter said. “We just want to show what great pizzas we have to offer.”

Feel ripped off? Or glad to see bloggers, critics and journos get stung? Or even just a massive fan of Dr Oetker and glad to see it get the restaurant status you think it deserves? Let us know what you think.

Picture courtesy of NQManchester, with thanks.

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