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No One Wins in This Fight Between a Vegan Influencer and a Fancy Italian Restaurant

Plus, the Mormon Church warns its followers about Starbucks, and more news to start your day

Street Style : Paris Fashion Week -Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2019/2020 : Day Four
Nicole Warne at Paris Fashion Week
Claudio Lavenia/Getty Images

Is $200 a fair price for the ‘gram?

It’s time for a game of “who’s the jerk here?”: Australian fashion blogger and Instagram influencer Nicole Warne went after high-end Italian restaurant Grotta Palazzese in front of her 1.7 million followers for failing to tweak its $200 tasting menu to fit her many dietary requirements. But in a case of things being slightly more complicated than a high maintenance internet celebrity being a pain in the ass, she says she contacted the restaurant months before visiting and was only told on arrival that they couldn’t accommodate her, leaving her with a $200 meal of “a tiny bowl of beans, two slices of vegetables, and...a fruit plate as dessert.”

Based on the facts provided by Insider, Warne did initially approach this the right way, giving the restaurant notice of her dietary restrictions. She has intolerances to gluten, coconut, and cashews, and is vegan, though it’s not clear if the restaurant ever offered to accommodate her. Grotta Palazzese is built into the side of a cliff in Polignano a Mar, Puglia, offering spectacular Instagram fodder — and Warne herself admits that she ignored mixed reviews when she decided to book a table. Posting several photos of herself at the restaurant, she told followers, “If you are willing to pay just to take photos, then sure, go visit, the photos will be beautiful, but if you’re like us and just appreciate good service and delicious food, then I would highly suggest going to a local restaurant and ordering the $15 euro mouthwatering pasta that was easily better than what we found here for twelve times the price.” (Many local trattorias might also struggle to provide gluten-free and vegan pasta.)

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I was conflicted posting this; I am aware there are far worse things happening in the world but I am also aware that many of you look to my account as a travel guide and may book places as a result. I don’t like to be part of any form of negativity but I felt compelled to share my experience after so many of you asked where this place was because you wanted to visit. For me, this place was the worst dining experience I have ever had. We were so excited a table was available during our dates, and even after reading the mixed reviews we decided to try it anyway as we saw it is a once in a lifetime experience. I gave them my list of food requirements (I am vegan, with severe gluten, cashew and coconut intolerances) when I made a reservation three months in advance. Upon arrival, the view took our breath away, it truly is serene, but as soon as we sat down we were told the kitchen had not and could not prepare anything not on the set menu. I am used to not being able to eat most options on a menu, but as this was a “fine dining experience” and they asked for my food requirements well in advance, I was frustrated to hear I would still need to pay $180 euros for the set menu, much of which I could not eat. I ended up eating a tiny bowl of beans, two slices of vegetables and was offered a fruit plate as dessert, which I did not eat. The customer service was terrible and I was further disappointed when the staff and the chef would not acknowledge the situation. Beyond my experience, my girlfriend got the normal set menu and found it underwhelming. We are no food critics, but this food seemed to fall victim to a fancy restaurant trying to create fancy food but completely missing the mark and offering bizarre and confusing food as a result. For me, this place is not worth the money even despite the fantastic view. If you are willing to pay just to take photos, then sure, go visit, the photos will be beautiful, but if you’re like us and just appreciate good service and delicious food, then I would highly suggest going to a local restaurant and ordering the $15 euro mouthwatering pasta that was easily better than what we found here for twelve times the price x

A post shared by Nicole Warne Shadbolt (@nicolewarne) on

And in other news...

  • In other influencer news, did a Nashville Insta-star use her (minor) motorcycle accident to shill for SmartWater? It kind of looks that way. [Buzzfeed]
  • The predominantly Mormon city of Provo, Utah, is about to get its first Starbucks — and the Mormon Church, which forbids caffeine consumption, is reminding its followers not to succumb to temptation. [Sprudge]
  • Food and Wine and Travel and Leisure have (in tandem) dropped a list of the World’s Best Restaurants, and it’s mercifully not too Euro- and America-centric. [Food & Wine/Travel & Leisure]
  • A New York restaurant worker pursuing his former employer for $200,000 in unpaid wages was arrested by ICE at the deposition — possibly after the employer alerted the agency. [WNYC]
  • Would you buy meat off Facebook? This isn’t a hypothetical question: people are already doing it. [Mel]
  • Your next potluck recipe is Totino’s new snack mix, which puts pizza rolls, garlic bread bites, and tater tots into one bag. [Food & Wine]
  • Jamie Oliver’s restaurant empire might have tanked, but looks like he’s still rich, according to a Times profile. [NYT]
  • The next possible victim of President Trump’s trade war with China? California wine producers, who say tariffs are making their market dry up. [LA Times]
  • Those photos of Jeffrey Epstein-associate Ghislaine Maxwell chowing down at an L.A. In-N-Out Burger were probably staged — by her attorney, no less. [Daily Mail]
  • Lastly, some feel-good vindication from the Bay Area’s only culinary bookstore. [Twitter]

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