It's really easy to have the best restaurant in town. Just make it up
The quickest way to get the most buzzed-about restaurant in town? Magic a new place out of thin air.
With so many restaurants to choose from and so little time, it's no wonder we prize restaurant reviews – from critics and strangers alike – so highly.
But you shouldn't always believe everything you read.
Italian newspaper Italia a Tavola invented a profile of the imaginary restaurant, La Scaletta, on TripAdvisor to reveal the flaws in the website's ranking system, where people can review meals and events online.
Within a month, La Scaletta (supposedly based in Moniga del Garda on the shores of northern Italy's famous Lake Garda) had earned the rating of best restaurant in town through its 10 fake "excellent" reviews.
Those posting on the site gushed about their "emotional" dining experience and raved about how "finally" a restaurant of its calibre had arrived.
La Scaletta quickly swept away competition like L’Osteria H2O, which has over 300 reviews.
Even the restaurant's phone number was bogus – it was the number for the town's old police station, reports The Local.
TripAdvisor deleted the comments, photographs and profile of the restaurant within 10 minutes of finding out it was a fraud.
"As the world’s most visited travel site, we are absolutely committed to ensuring that the content on TripAdvisor provides a trusted and useful source of information for those planning a trip anywhere in the world," a spokesperson for the company told The Independent.
"In this instance, we investigated and removed from the site the listing and reviews that failed to meet our guidelines.
"It is a pretty meaningless experiment to create a fake listing or reviews just to try and catch us out, since that is completely different from the fraud we see and catch on a daily basis. We know that, when fraudsters attempt to manipulate the rankings on our site, they leave behind patterns that we can and do trace."
This isn't the first sign of trouble between Italians and TripAdvisor; in December 2014, the Italian Antitrust Authority fined the reviews website €500,000 over false reviews.
Lesson learned: we vow to sample all Italian dishes and restaurants from now on ourselves. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.