12/08/2013 10:25 BST | Updated 12/10/2013 06:12 BST

Gary Newborough, Restaurant Owner Duped Critics With Frozen Dr Oetker Pizzas

A restaurant owner duped critics on his opening night by serving frozen supermarket pizzas.

Gary Newborough had promised a "taste of Italy" and "pizza with a real difference" at the VIP event to celebrate the opening of his new La Pizzeria Ristorante in Manchester's Northern Quarter.

The 58-year-old provided free tasters including "special" Pizza Pollo and Pizza Spinaci - to a rapturous response.

Gary Newborough says he will continue to serve frozen Dr Oetker pizzas until September

But the penny dropped when a note was passed round later that night revealing the food his 100 guests were sampling was in fact Dr Oetker pizzas bought from the freezer from a nearby high street store for £2.78 each.

And unrepentant Newborough has announced the restaurant will continue to serve frozen pizzas until September.

Two "chefs" will prepare fresh salad and breadboards and then take the selected pizza out of its box and pop it in the oven. Customers are being offered their restaurant-cooked supermarket pizzas with a soft drink and side salad for £4 as part of a lunch special.

Newborough - who runs the venue as well as the Market Restaurant downstairs - said: "We wanted to try and do something a bit different and we thought serving up supermarket pizzas would be a good idea to get people talking.

Floor manager Chris Alexander confides cooking frozen pizza is 'harder than it looks'

''We wanted to see if they could tell the difference between freshly cooked pizzas and frozen ones you can buy from stores. Evidently people didn't know the difference and were taken in because they loved it so much.

''Unfortunately some people at the launch were a little cross when they found out we were serving frozen supermarket pizzas.

''But they weren't complaining when it was free and they were going through 36 bottles of sparking wine that I laid on. It was just a bit of fun and it didn't cost anybody anything to try it. 'I just liked the idea of doing something that nobody has ever done before. ''

In Newborough's Market Restaurant downstairs, he prides himself on using the freshest Lancashire ingredients, with dishes including the finest hung Lancashire beef and Bury black pudding.

But with 33 years in the business, he has no regrets about duping critics into tucking into the frozen Italian food.

He said: "I had no intention to deceive, the pizzas are called Ristorante and we had Dr Oetker signs on the walls - it's just a bit of fun for a month and I think it's bloody good value.

"Great value, great service and in great surroundings - with no horse meat in sight. What more could you want?"

"These are the best frozen pizzas around and at least we know what's in them. I see people carrying boxes of burgers into restaurants and in big letters they say 'contains only 30% beef'. Why does no-one ask what the rest is?"

Floor Manager Chris Alexander, 22, said: ''Cooking frozen pizza is harder than it looks.

"The bases need to be crispy and they need to be cooked right each time, so it can sometimes be a little tricky.

"In terms of service and value we can definitely compete with the restaurants around here. It doesn't matter that the secret's out, that would defeat the object. We want to show that you can't tell the difference between the Dr Oetker Ristorante pizzas and proper restaurant meals.

"At the launch most people were complimentary about the taste but we had a few who were a little angry because they felt they had been victims of a prank."

Twitter contained mixed reaction when news of the restaurant was revealed.

Emma Louise Madden said: "This Dr Oetker La Pizzeria Ristorante stunt has to be the weirdest thing in the history of the Manchester food scene. Reading it all open-mouthed."

While Leo's Fish Bar, a popular Manchester takeaway and cafe tweeted: "All this talk of Dr Oetker - why didn't we just serve McCains?"