Pizza without tomatoes on the menu because chefs are choking on the prices of vegetables and fruits | Italian food and drinks

Get ready for tomato-free pasta sauce and white pizza. Italian restaurants across the UK are having to ration tomatoes, raise prices and, in some cases, remove them pomodoro completely off their menu as costs increase.

The price of tomatoes has quadrupled in the last year, from £5 a case to £20 a case, according to Federazione Italian Cuochi UK (FIC UK), the association of chefs.

The price of canned tomatoes has doubled from £15 a case to £30. the cost of it insalata The iceberg lettuce staple has also increased, from around £7 a box to £22.

Tomatoes are among the species most affected by the shortage of fruit and vegetables in the UK, which has left supermarket shelves empty. The government blamed bad weather in southern Europe and northern Africa. High electricity prices have also hit the supply of products grown in greenhouses in the UK and the Netherlands.

Enzo Oliveri, chief executive of FIC UK, said it had been a “very difficult” time for Italian restaurants following issues with rising costs and Brexit, and warned that some could go bankrupt. “I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

Its members usually source tomatoes from Italy, Spain or Morocco. “But because there are shortages everywhere, tomatoes don’t come from anywhere,” he said.

Theo Randall poses for a portrait looking off-camera wearing an apron and holding a large block of hard cheese
Chef Theo Randall of the InterContinental Hotel in Mayfair says suppliers are rationing canned tomato passata. Photo: PR

Oliveri works with tomato suppliers to secure quantities of high-quality canned and crushed tomatoes, but they too are experiencing shortages.

Some restaurants, Oliveri said, are adapting by moving their menus away from the ingredient and instead offering tomato-free “white” pizza and pasta dishes.

Chefs use cheeses such as ricotta and vegetables such as zucchini or eggplant as bases and thickeners for sauces. “White pizza, white pasta sauces or less tomatoes. We’re making it a trend because prices are going up and because of shortages.”

He called on the government to curb tomato prices, warning: “When prices go up, we’re in trouble. We can no longer calculate margins.”

Carmelo Carnevale, president of an Italian culinary consortium, said tomato prices had tripled in the last two weeks alone. While restaurants still get tomatoes, they don’t get them in the usual amounts.

“It’s very stressful for us, especially since we also have imports from Italy twice a week. We’re lucky to get it,” he said. “Tomatoes are present in many of our dishes. As a company, we promote “made in Italy” and we must maintain our identity without compromising on quality. We also can’t raise our prices, so we don’t make any profits.”

He said restaurant owners were worried about their future, adding that “it’s not a good time at all.”

Antonio Alderuccio, of the vegetarian restaurant Plant Club in London, said the price of passata (tomato puree) had increased by 70% in the last year. “Tomato prices are skyrocketing right now.”

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One of its Sicilian producers blames the climate crisis. “In Sicily, temperatures last winter averaged 22°C,” he said. “This meant that the tomatoes were ripening very quickly and therefore many products did not appear on the market.” Alderuccio continues to cook with tomatoes, but has raised prices to preserve quality without losing money, he said.

Chef Theo Randall, who specializes in Italian cuisine at his restaurant at the InterContinental Hotel in Mayfair, said he had no problems yet but noted that suppliers were rationing the passata.You order 10 cans and you get three,” he said.

To circumvent any supply issues, chefs base their menus on available ingredients. “Everything went up,” he said. “Basically, it’s enough to raise prices.

“And you have to look at the ingredients you can afford to use. This is a very difficult time for all restaurants. The hospitality industry has been affected by many things over the past few years, and this is another one.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said last week that the UK has a “highly resilient food supply chain and is well placed to deal with disruption”.

The spokesman said it was in “close contact with suppliers who are confident that the current availability issues for some fruit and vegetables were mainly due to bad weather in Spain and North Africa where they are produced.”

They added that ministers would soon organize an industry roundtable with supermarkets on how to help restore normal supplies.

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