Customers must be informed if menu items aren't made fresh.
The problem is frustratingly common: You order something that sounds delicious enough on the menu, but when the dish arrives, it looks like it’s just been pulled out of the freezer. (Fried appetizers, we’m looking in your direction!) But in Italy at least, this kind of behavior is actually considered fraud. And in fact, Italy’s highest court recently upheld a law whereby restaurants can be fined for not disclosing that they are serving frozen food on the menu.
Importantly, serving previously frozen food at restaurants in Italy is not inherently illegal; however, this information must be listed on the menu, otherwise restaurant owners can face fines or even jail time. According to The Local, this latest case stems from an incident when an eatery in Milan was fined €200 after an inspection turned up fully-stocked freezers but no mention of frozen food on the menu. Interestingly, the restaurateur did not appear to be objecting to the law specifically, but instead was appealing his fine on a technicality, stating that since no one was in the restaurant during the inspection, he didn’t have any customers to defraud. (Sounds like this guy might have been better off pursuing a career as a lawyer.)
But Judges in Italy’s top civil court, the Court of Cassation, were not having it, and upheld the lower court’s ruling. “Even the mere availability of frozen food, if not identified as such on the menu, constitutes attempted commercial fraud,” the ruling from Judge Emanuela Gai stated. As a result, the court upped the restaurant owner’s fine to €2,000 and ordered him to pay legal fees as well. The whole thing sounds like a lot of trouble for what started out as a not particularly steep fine. But then again, whipping up a fresh batch of jalapeño poppers for every other table must be kind of a pain, too.
There isn't a frozen food disclosure law in the United States, so for now chain restuarants (and in a previous incident, even some nicer places like Fig & Olive) can rest easy.