The Italy-based ASACERT. Its ITA0039 100% Italian Taste Certification “verifies and promotes restaurants which offer a genuine Italian dining experience overseas.”
Never heard of it...
That’s not surprising. The organisation appears to have very little presence in the UK. They’re not short of accreditations themselves, though. ASACERT has got the nod from the United Kingdom Accreditation Service and an Italian organisation that handles “works planning inspections”, whatever those are. It’s also authorised to perform tests on grounding and lightening protection equipment.
Well that’s a relief. What does any of this have to do with food?
Unclear. The only information the website gives is that restaurants seeking accreditation undergo “a thorough auditing process which includes employee interviews and an independent inspection of produce, recipes and suppliers”.
Is San Carlo authentic?
Probably more so than most Italian chains. It’s run by an Italian family, the Distefanos, and has an Italian executive chef in Aldo Zilli. However, some might question the inclusion of “pollo alla Kiev” on the group’s Leicester menu and the decision to serve their Bolognese sauce with a pasta called bigoli, which has more in common with spaghetti than the traditional tagliatelle.
Are there any other accreditation schemes for Italian restaurants?
Actually, there are several. The AVPN (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana) accredits a handful of pizzerias on these shores, including the excellent Casa Mia in Herne Bay, Kent. That organisation is far more clear on what makes an authentically Italian product, with criteria on ingredients and cooking process (although in fairness it’s a bit simpler when you’re dealing with one type of dish). Ospitalità Italiana accredits 90 restaurants in the UK, including the Fratelli la Bufala chain and Giorgio Locatelli’s Michelin-starred Locanda Locatelli.
Do these schemes really guarantee authentic Italian food?
That's a tricky one. If a lot of decent restaurants are signed up to a scheme it's probably a good sign. However, there are lots of great, authentically-run Italians that don't have any accreditations at all.