Italian restaurant boss fears his firm will go under in weeks amid soaring food prices

An Italian restaurant boss fears he’ll go out of business in a matter of weeks as ballooning pasta prices and the vegetable shortage crisis have caused his costs to rocket.

Carmine Montuori, 52, moved to Bristol from Italy nine years ago – and runs an independent Italian eatery in the city.

He says the family-run business is at risk of going under in as little as three months because of vegetable shortages, blamed on weather in Europe and Africa.

And Carmine says the crisis has caused vegetable, pasta and rice prices to skyrocket, with costs for arancini having doubled and pasta prices up 80 per cent. 

Now the worried restauranteur fears he will need to charge double for the same meal to maintain profits – or cull up to a quarter of his menu to survive.  

Carmine Monturi, 52, has run Taste of Napoli with his family in Bristol for six years. But now he fears soaring food prices could cause kill his business

The father-of-three said: ‘It’s a real problem. The vegetable prices from wholesalers are 50 per cent higher than last month.

‘But we have no choice because we can’t get them from the supermarkets – the shelves are empty.

‘If the prices don’t go down in the next three or four months, we’ll need to close.’

He says if ingredient prices don’t fall in the next couple of months, the business has ‘no chance of staying on the market’. 

He added: ‘People don’t realise the struggle independents have – the big companies can survive just fine, but we can’t.

‘Everything we sell is hand-made fresh but some people don’t want to pay more for a slice of pizza here than in a big chain like Greggs.’

Carmine has run Taste of Napoli with his family for six years. But he said prices of imported goods have shot up since Brexit and just when they were starting to fall again, Covid-19 struck, setting them back even further.

And he’s had to reduce their opening hours because he is struggling to find Italian staff to help run his restaurant as so many have returned home since Brexit.

Carmine says the shortages mean prices of their vegetables, pasta and rice have skyrocketed, while rice prices for arancini have doubled and pasta costs are up by 80 per cent

Carmine says the shortages mean prices of their vegetables, pasta and rice have skyrocketed, while rice prices for arancini have doubled and pasta costs are up by 80 per cent

The beginning of the war in Ukraine led to gas and fuel prices skyrocketing, making their overhead costs higher and their transport costs greater.

Flour and cooking oil prices also rose in 2022 – so the latest shortages have crippled the family-run business.

Vegetable prices have shot up due to the shortage, along with pasta and rice prices.

Carmine has already upped most things on his menu by 20 per cent but claims it’s not enough to compensate for the inflated ingredient costs.

‘Every day I wake up and something has happened – some price has gone up,’ he said.

‘I can’t double my prices to make profit because then nobody would come in.

‘The big restaurant chains can handle that, but if we don’t make profit we don’t get paid.’

Carmine is now desperately appealing for help amid fears his business has just months left to survive.  

He added: ‘We need help because if this continues for the next three to five months we have no chance of staying on the market.’

Carmine’s plea comes as major grocers nationwide have started rationing vegetables, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes – with Lidl becoming the latest to limit foods on Monday. 

Supermarkets are rationing food items and shelves continue to remain bare across the country as retailers grapple with supply problems. Tesco and Aldi joined Asda and Morrisons to ration fruit and vegetables last week. 

There are no fresh tomatoes for sale at this Lidl store in Bourne, Lincolnshire

Empty shelves are seen in the fruit and vegetable aisles of a Tesco supermarket in Burgess Hill

Empty shelves are seen in the fruit and vegetable aisles of a Tesco supermarket in Burgess Hill

A Lidl spokesman said: ‘As advised to our customers through signage in our stores last week, adverse weather conditions in Spain and Morocco have recently impacted the availability of certain salad items across the supermarket sector. 

‘Whilst we still have good availability across the majority of our stores, due to a recent increase in demand we have taken the decision to temporarily limit the purchase of peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers to three items per person. 

Suppliers have smacked down the claims food rationing triggered by ‘sky-high’ prices was caused by Brexit.  

Clive Black, from Shore Capital, said bad weather in Spain and Morocco had caused a ‘perfect storm’ for British retailers who rely heavily on those countries for food in the winter months.

He said the crisis is ‘leading to sky-high prices for tomatoes and cucumbers’ and warned that rationing now imposed in four major supermarkets including Tesco will drag on for ‘weeks.’

Tim O’Malley, of major importer Nationwide Produce, said wholesale spot prices for fresh produce have soared by as much as 300 per cent in recent weeks as harvesting abroad went down by 20 per cent or more. If increases are passed on to British consumers, these items would add several pounds to a weekly shop.

Asked about the difference between shelves in the UK and Europe, where gloating expats relished sharing pictures of their supermarkets awash with fruit and vegetables using the hashtag #Vegxit, he said: ‘It’s not about Brexit’.