WATCH: Sheffield restaurant owner shames diner who gave bad Trip Advisor review with CCTV footage showing him fleeing without paying
A Sheffield restaurant owner proved that revenge is a dish best served cold – by shaming a diner who gave him a bad review by releasing CCTV footage of him leaving without paying his bill.
Vito Ciaraolo, owner of Vito's in Walkley, turned detective and sprung into action after a scathing review of his restaurant was posted on travel and food reviews website Trip Advisor.
The Italian restaurateur quickly realised that the review, headed "The worst and most over priced place to eat in Sheffield” had been posted by a diner who had eaten at the restaurant earlier this year – but who he claims had fled, along with a female companion, without paying his £80 bill.
And Mr Ciaraolo, who has been in charge at the South Road restaurant for the past 25 years, has now become a hero after releasing CCTV footage of the pair – and tearing into the couple in a hard-hitting response on Trip Advisor.
He said: "People seem to think they can put whatever they like on Trip Advisor. Well, I wanted to show people what had actually happened and put everyone straight."
The drama began in January this year when Mr Ciaraolo took a booking for a meal for two from the man and a female companion.
After scoffing down steak dinners as well as wine and beers, Mr Ciaraolo says the man complained to a waiter that the woman's steak was cold.
Said Mr Ciaraolo: "The waiter came to see me and when we went back up to discuss it with them, they had disappeared. We thought they had gone for a cigarette but there was no sign of them and when we looked at the CCTV, we found they had done a runner without paying."
The restaurant owner then contacted police – and after months of searching, he claims the man was eventually tracked down and ordered to settle the bill.
And shortly after being ordered to pay up, the man, who we are not naming, decided to launch his attack on Vito's via the Trip Advisor website where members of the public can rate and slate restaurants and hotels.
The damning post, uploaded to the site earlier this month, read: "Went here on a date, for starters was severed (sic) raw garlic bread that fell to pieces as you picked it up, tasted discusting (sic) , for the main we had too (sic) freezing cold steaks with sauce on top that had turned to skin the veg that came with it was so raw it nearly broke my teeth. Vito does not have any idea how to cook ! How this place is still open I have no idea ! It probably is the worst but most expensive place to eat in Sheffield! Warning to all don't go there."
However, Mr Ciaraolo was quick to defend his business – after realising who had created the write-up.
He wrote: "Your slanderous review comes as no surprise based on how you behaved after dining at my restaurant.
"You fail to mention that after eating all of your meal you subsequently did a "runner" and did not pay for the food you ate. Luckily your antics were captured on my CCTV system. I would therefore invite anyone reading this review to take a look on my Facebook restaurant page and view the CCTV footage to witness your disgraceful behaviour."
The 53-year-old says the footage has been viewed and shared more than 18,000 times and diners have rushed to praise him for naming and shaming the runaway diner.
He added: "I've had loads of support. In 25 years, this is the first time anything like this has ever happened to me. We are not perfect and we sometimes make mistakes and people aren't happy and we try to resolve them. What this man did was disgraceful."
The Facebook post from Mr Ciaraolo continued: "You simply came for a meal at my restaurant when you knew from the word off you had no intentions of paying. After finishing your meal you did not complain about anything, you merely said that you were popping outside for a cigarette (as some customers do). However you then decided along with your delightful "date" (the one hiding behind the skip on the CCTV footage) that you would not pay the bill – what a nice way to impress a woman!"
The footage shows the woman crouching down in the road and then dashing to leap into a vehicle which is seen being driven down the road.
Mr Ciarolo said that he passed the footage to South Yorkshire Police and earlier this month the diner settled his bill – but not without further abuse.
"You contacted me to make payment over the phone where you proceeded to call me names and make threats," he wrote."Following this you were still not satisfied you had said enough (and probably angry you had got caught out) and proceeded to email me telling me you hoped I would go bankrupt as this it what I deserved and how you felt ripped off……. I think you will find I was the one who was ripped off!"
He added: "It wasn't the money, it was the principle of it. We always look after our customers, but it is disgusting that people can put what they want on the web which is why I did what I did."
His actions have won praise from other customers and Claire Louise Holland wrote on the restaurant's Facebook page: "I'm so glad this person has been exposed.
"This is terrible as I've been going to Vito's for many years and only ever experienced excellent services, amazing food and lovely atmosphere. Well done Vito and your staff for outing such a dishonest person."
Jake Harrison added: "The food is great, the wine is great and I love that you stand up for yourself and Italian cuisine… the customer is not always right!"
South Yorkshire Police have been contacted for comment.