Rome waiter fired for serving anti-gay receipt lands restaurant in hot water

A restaurant in Rome, Italy, is facing death threats and insults after one of its waiters wrote a homophobic message in the receipt given to a gay couple—and was subsequently fired.

The incident first emerged on Thursday through a press statement on Gay Center, an association providing services to LGBT+ people such as a hotline to report homophobic attacks. The couple had dined at the Locanda Rigatoni and contacted the hotline after it was given a receipt containing a homophobic message.

The couple had asked for their pasta dish to have parmesan cheese rather than the classic pecorino cheese. The waiter noted in the receipt “no pecorino, yes faggots,” referring to the double entendre of the word “pecorino,” whose female form is an Italian slang term for the doggy-style position.

The couple told Gay Center they complained to the waiter and the restaurant owner who did not provide any apology, and only after discussing the issue for 30 minutes, said she wouldn’t charge for the meal. The waiter, the couple noted in their statement to Gay Center, even complained about being humiliated in front of other diners. In their statement, Gay Center demanded local authorities to withdraw the restaurant’s operational licence and encouraged a boycott.

As the incident gathered attention in Italian media, the restaurant owners shared on their Facebook page a statement issued to the Italian news agency AdnKronos on Saturday, apologising to the couple and stating the waiter in question had been fired. In contrast to the couple’s statement to Gay Center, the statement claimed the manager apologised to the customers immediately.

“The owners, the staff and the manager have always considered Locanda Rigatoni everyone’s home. We have long been involved in programs of integration of refugees in our restaurant and we officially ask the LGBT community to build together a path to reaffirm the values of tolerance, respect and openness that have always been key to how we run the restaurant,” the statement read.

Revellers pose in front of the Coliseum during the Gay Pride Parade in Rome on June 9, 2018 (Photo by Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty)

Despite the restaurant’s attempt to make amends, it has since been targeted both by those who condemned the homophobic incident and felt firing the waiter was not an adequate or genuine response, as well as those who supported the waiter and were unhappy with his firing.

Hundreds of comments poured over the restaurant’s Facebook page, where nearly 2,000 people left a 1-star review. Gay Center spokesperson Fabrizio Marrazzo told PinkNews that there were around 1,000 negative reviews on the restaurant’s TripAdvisor page, but there were mysteriously deleted.

Then on Sunday, the far-right group Forza Nuova hanged a banner reading “fired by your homofolly” outside the restaurant, the owners reported on their Facebook page.

“Yesterday [there was] a stream of violent and vulgar phone calls and several death threats and threats of damages to the restaurant, which will therefore stay shut today,” they said in a statement to the Italian news agency Ansa shared on social media. “The consequences of an unspeakable act of a person that was promptly removed are involving our families and our employees’ families. We renew our apologies to the couple involved in this most unfortunate episode and the request of dialogue and shared path with the LGBT community so that shameful acts such as that one could not and may not occur again.”

According to Marrazzo, the restaurant’s apologies were belated and insufficient. “This wasn’t the action of a single person,” he said, adding that the manager should also be apologising for the dismissive way she handled the couple’s complaint. “She still hasn’t admitted her responsibility,” he said.

A demonstrator waves a rainbow flag during a Gay Pride Parade at The Colosseum in Rome on June 10, 2017. (Photo by Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty)

Gay Center says it receives around 20,000 reports of homophobia and transphobia to its hotline every year, an average of 54 a day. Most recently, it reported about a lesbian woman in Rome replying to a job ad that was refused an interview and told “we need women, not failed males.”

The association spokesperson was also targeted by homophobic abuse on social media due to his advocacy, with one Facebook user posting a picture of Marrazzo over a tombstone reading “dead faggot, year 2018.” The association said it reported the abuse and will persist in its work.

Marrazzo told PinkNews he is used to receiving this abuse, but that tracking the perpetrators is hard because they often use fake names. Reporting homophobia in Italy is also made harder by the lack of a specific law against such hate crime and support to those who report abuse, both from the authorities and in the family and workplace environments.

The couple at the receiving end of the restaurant’s homophobic receipt was not comfortable using their names to report the abuse as their parents don’t know they are gay, Marrazzo said. “Those who report homophobic acts are often left on their own,” he added, nonetheless remaining hopeful that such a legislation could pass under Italy’s current government.

This article was updated with comments from Gay Center spokesperson Fabrizio Marrazzo received after publication.