One thing that you should be able to pretty much guarantee from an Italian restaurant is a healthy slice of comfort. While hearty pizzas and pasta may not always deliver a high-end dining experience, there are times when a plateful of Italy is the only thing that can truly hit the spot.
Settling into a seat - laid comatose by a tomato-based, carby onslaught - should be the highlight of any well-spent night out. To have this experience disrupted by an assault from your dinner is, therefore, alarming to say the least.
Such an experience recently befell startled diner Theresa Thomas. Tempted by the prospect of a decadent late lunch with her husband, Thomas visited Chicago eatery Osteria Ottimo Ristorante in December last year. After carefully perusing the menu, she settled on a deceptively harmless-sounding lasagna. Little did she know that this fateful dish would go on to cause months of hardship.
After a brief wait, the couple's food arrived, and the trouble started. According to her overly loquacious legal team, Thomas “placed her left hand in her lap, picked up a fork with her right hand and touched the tower of layered pasta, meat, cheese and marinara sauce with the fork”. The lawsuit alleges that this is where the acts of “acts of tortious conduct” began in earnest.
“Upon contact with the fork, and without warning, piping hot marinara sauce shot from the lasagna and onto Theresa’s left hand, scalding the skin and causing a large burn,” wrote Thomas' attorney, David S Pettrich. Though this account makes the lasagna seem more like the creature from Alien than food, the result was no laughing matter.
According to the plaintiffs, the severity of the injuries was such that Thomas' incurred substantial medical costs and continues to “suffer great physical pain and mental anguish”. The incident has rendered her incapable of returning to work or carrying out her normal, everyday tasks, responsibility for which the $50,000 lawsuit lays firmly at the door of the restaurant.
As reported in the Chicago Tribune, Thomas' legal team contend that the "Osteria Ottimo Ristorante was careless and negligent in preparing unreasonably hot and/or dangerous food, serving such food, failing to cool the food, failing to train staff members to serve cooler food, and failing to warn Thomas and others that their food was hot or dangerous".
Since opening in 2008, the restaurant has been a Chicago favourite. The website states that the rustic Italian kitchen specializes in creating "handcrafted delights that instantly brighten up your day". Clearly, not everyone would agree. It remains to be seen whether this incident will have any adverse impact on the restaurant's business.
Were Thomas' team to be successful, it would not be the first time that a customer has successfully sued over hot food. A famous case in 1994 saw a woman take successful legal action after a cup of McDonald's coffee spilled in her lap as she was driving. As the case is ongoing, it remains to be seen whether history will repeat itself.
Whatever happens, it seems American restaurants would be well advised to stop serving lava to their customers, lest they risk lengthy legal battles in the future.