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Investigation Reveals Restaurants Are Serving Cheap Lobster Substitutes

Some "lobster ravioli" didn't even contain seafood at all.

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Much like caviar and Champagne, lobster is synonymous with expensive. But what if the pricey lobster dish at your neighborhood restaurant doesn't actually contain the prized crustacean at all, but a cheap seafood substitute?

According to an investigation by Inside Edition that will air tonight on CBS, that's exactly what's happening at a number of restaurants around the country. Reporters visited 28 restaurants in the U.S. ranging from national chains to locally owned seafood shacks and found that a full 35 percent contained "cheap fish substitutes" (usually whiting). Violators included Nathan's in Coney Island, where the lobster roll was actually whiting, and Sofia's in Manhattan's Little Italy neighborhood, where the so-called "lobster ravioli" was simply filled with cheese.

Meanwhile at Cheddar Bay biscuit-slinging chain Red Lobster, the lobster bisque contains langostino (or "squat lobster"), a sea creature that more closely resembles a prawn. (Red Lobster's been up front about serving langostino for years, however, even including the term in a recent press release for its annual Lobsterfest promotion.)

Of course, lobster certainly isn't the only pricey food that's subject to fraud: Thanks to the mafia, the Italian extra-virgin olive oil market is currently being plagued by inferior imitators, and just last week police in Italy seized $400,000 worth of fake Moët Champagne.