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MenuGate: The Curious Case of Piccolo

Last week, MenuGate looked at the strange case of unpublished negative user reviews on Menupages, the queen bee of online menu sites.

Today, a reader-submitted follow-up steers us towards the generally non-notable Italian eatery Piccolo at Third and 19th. Take one part shilling, add one part alleged subterfuge, and enjoy.

An Eater reader emails:

I have a similar experience regarding menupages.com and a specific example if you choose to look further into it.

Went to Piccolo on the corner of 3rd Ave and 19th street for dinner last April. The meal was bad from start to finish. I've never been served such bland Italian food in NYC before. I took the rare step (for me) of putting something into menupages, I would only bother to do this for something really good or really bad.

When I went to menupages.com I clicked on Gramercy/Kips Bay and Piccolo appeared immediately at the top of the list of restaurants. Menupages had started taking advertising money from the restaurants. This was new.

To go along with Piccolo showing up as a 'Featured Restaurant' was a well-timed glowing review with enormous shill factor (3/29/2006)-

"A piece of Italy! Me and my friends went to this little place on the corner of third ave. everything was amazing..the food, the service, the decor, everything was picture perfect. the staff was very polite and always on top of things.it made me feel like i was actually in italy.i ordered a pasta plate.,it was fabulous. the presentation was great. i will definitly recommend this place to all my friends."

I put in a fair but negative review and gave the place low scores across the board. Waited a couple days and that review never showed up. Tried a couple more times
with slightly less negative reviews. They never appeared. Frustrated, I put in a few positive reviews at places that I've liked just to make sure the review process worked and they all made the site within two days. I put in a negative review at a different
restaurant where I'd had a couple bad meals (see Pipa 'Posted by Scott V on 05/11/2006') and it appeared on the site.

If you take a look at the reviews posted over this summer for Piccolo, you'll notice a few similarities. All are effusive in their praise. In 3 out of 4 the reviewer has a hard time getting the space in after periods. How Anonymous got that negative review posted on 09/04/2006 is a mystery.

In Menupage's defense, there is that negative review at the top of the whole list. And, a slew of negative reviews remain from the pre-March 2006 period. So, while there's some high-percentage shilling definitely going on here, we're hesitant to pull the trigger and implicate Menupages itself.

In possession of further evidence? The MenuGate team awaits your call.
· Menupages: Piccolo [Menupages]

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