Italian restaurateurs in London have responded with mixed feelings to the Italian ambassador's criticism of the quality of his native cuisine produced in Britain.

Luigi Amaduzzi last week hit out against poor-quality UK restaurants claiming to serve Italian food. "We have an enormous number of so-called Italian restaurants and it is a huge problem," he said.

"I am very well aware that many restaurants call themselves Italian and are not Italian because their chefs are not Italian and their produce or recipes are not Italian," he added. "The majority of Italian restaurants in London are very much average, and we must ensure a good standard."

British-born Andrew Needham, former sous chef to Giorgio Locatelli and head chef at Zafferano, said he felt "insulted" by Amaduzzi's assumption that only Italian chefs could produce quality food.

"It's not just Italian restaurants that are rubbish," he said. "There are bad examples of all restaurants, with people out to make a fast buck. But it's a bit pretentious to say that only Italians can cook Italian food."

Locatelli himself praised the ambassador's work in the UK but said it was ridiculous to expect restaurateurs to employ only Italian staff. "I do agree that standards need to be raised, but it's a free market," he said.

General manager Keiran Terry at Chelsea restaurant Daphne's said that he thought the issue was a "very sensitive subject" but stressed it was "very important to have Italian staff to add a flavour of authenticity".

Amaduzzi declined to mention specific restaurants but did mention PizzaExpress-owned Caf‚ Pasta. The high-street restaurant chain hit back, saying: "PizzaExpress is a British company and has never set out to be an Italian business. Although some of our pizzas are based on Italian recipes, our menu is shaped by what our customers want."

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