The owner of an Italian restaurant in New Mexico says he's seen a surge in business after posting a billboard that featured a food-centric pun playing off the Black Lives Matter slogan. Rick Camuglia, owner of Paisano's in Albuquerque, posted what he ...and more »
Is this sign offensive? The owner of an Italian restaurant in New Mexico doesn't think so.Â (Paisano's Facebook)
The owner of an Italian restaurant in New Mexico says heâ€™s seen a surge in business after posting a billboard that featured a food-centric pun playing off the Black Lives Matter slogan.
Rick Camuglia, owner of Paisanoâ€™s in Albuquerque, posted what he thought would be a well-received joke on the marquee sign in front of his restaurant last week. It read:
"BLACK OLIVES MATTER â€” TRY OUR TAPENADE."
â€œWeâ€™re currently offering a special seared ahi tuna with a black olive tapenade,â€ Camuglia told FoxNews.com. â€œMy chef had prepared the topping and placed it in the fridge. He wrote â€˜Black Olives Matterâ€™ on the container and I thought it was hilarious. So we put it on the marquee.â€
Eager to promote the seasonal fish dish, Camuglia also posted a picture of the sign to his restaurantâ€™s Facebook page.
But the restaurant owner never expected the post to go viral.
â€œIt wasnâ€™t a mistake to put up the billboard,â€ says Camuglia, â€œbut it was a mistake to post it on Facebook.â€
Within hours of Paisanoâ€™s post, Camuglia says the page was flooded with negative comments and the restaurant was inundated with phone calls.
â€œPeople were calling us racist. Saying we were a white supremacist restaurant. Some got really derogatory and just started cursing me out.â€
On Twitter and other social media platforms, many echoed similar sentiments.Facebook comments included, â€œHow insensitive,â€ â€œVery poor tasteâ€ and â€œWhat the hell is wrong with you people?â€Â
Despite the virtual vitriol, Camuglia says thereâ€™s been a major upside to the postâ€”big business.
â€œOur phone has also been ringing off the hook with people making reservations. People are placing carry-out orders in the high hundreds,â€ says the restaurant owner. â€œAnd theyâ€™re asking for black olives on everything. Black olives on the salad, â€˜Iâ€™ll have extra black olives on my sausage sandwichâ€™â€”weâ€™ve had to order more from our supplier.â€
Paisanoâ€™s has been family owned and operated since the 1970s. Unlike many traditional Italian restaurants, the Albuquerque eatery specializes in homemade gluten-free pastas. Now locals, and many others, just want more.
â€œWeâ€™ve had customers coming over from California, people even calling in from Australia.â€
Despite the uptick in business, Camuglia says he wasnâ€™t personally immune to the criticism. His restaurant is known for posting witty signs to drum up businessâ€”a previous post read â€œGluten-us Minimus for your Gluteus Maximusâ€-- but nothing has gone national until now.
The president of the Albuquerque branch of the NAACP weighed in on the matter, providing a statement to KRQE:
â€œThe posted sign at Paisanoâ€™s Restaurant that included the phrase â€˜Black Olives Matterâ€™ is a nice marketing idea,â€ Harold Bailey wrote. â€œHowever, with all of the national uproar, demonstrations and marches, regarding the shooting of African American men and youth by police officers, the Albuquerque NAACP feels that it was in bad tasteâ€¦.
â€œHopefully, the owners at Paisanoâ€™s will be a bit more sensitive in the future. Unjustified killing ofÂ innocent Black men isÂ nothing to joke about. Whether it was intentional or not, it sent the wrong message to many.â€
On Friday, Camuglia took down the sign due to the continuous barrage of Internet harassment but he thanked the Albuquerque community and his customers for boosting his business in a Facebook post.
But he still remains unapologetic.
â€œOur intention was never to offend or hurt anybody,â€ he says, â€œBut all of this just says a lot about the state of our society when you canâ€™t even make a simple statement about a fruit without people attacking you. People may need to recalibrate their politically correct meter.â€
The sign may be gone but the dish lives on. The Ahi tuna special is still on the menuâ€”Camuglia says itâ€™s deliciousâ€”and it costs $28.95.
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