Monday, December 6, 2010

Ethical dining

So, a while back, my friend Tim Carman wrote an article defending the reopening of a local chicken joint despite the owners convictions for money laundering. His "if it tastes good, eat it" attitude towards patronizing an establishment whose owners are convicted criminals sparked heated discussion both on his blog and on Washington DC's "foodie" website, One inspired rant even went so far as to compare Carman's supposedly amoral attitude to Leni Riefenstahl apologists.

Apparently the moral outrage dies down once the entrees reach double digits in price. Posters at the aforementioned "foodie" website have rushed to patronize Galileo III, a venture by convicted embezzler and multi-starred chef Roberto Donna. Now Donna has lost another legal battle, in which Chief U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth awarded former employees more than a half million dollars in unpaid wages and tips. So, apparently, Donna stole from the state and from his employees. Donna can't legally own a business, or get a liquor license in the District of Columbia because of monies owed the DC government, and so his new venture gets around that in a way that enriches his family indirectly while structured in such a way as to limit his personal liability:

"Licensing records show that the new restaurant is owned by RCR LLC. At Wednesday's hearing, Donna's longtime business partner and occasional bookkeeper, Corrado Bonino, who lives in Italy, testified that the chef is his "best friend" and godfather to Bonino's daughter. Bonino said one of his companies owns Mabel LLC, which owns RCR LLC. According to papers filed with the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, Mabel's other managing member is Nancy Sabbagh, Donna's wife."

Emphasis mine.

Why is is acceptable to continue to line Donna's pockets? I am heartened to see some dissent after the latest ruling, but the rush to take advantage of the  special offer that Donna made was disheartening from a group that has been regularly gathering to volunteer at DC Central Kitchen for 2+ years, held canned food drives at board events, and has supported many other fundraisers & charities. Not every meal has to be a noble venture; to (badly) paraphrase an apocryphal Sigmund Freud, sometimes a sandwich is just a sandwich. But lining up to enrich a criminal, a serial and seemingly unapologetic criminal? I can't do it, not even for a James Beard award-winner.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you and refused to go to G3 even if Roberto was my friend in the past.
    I like what you write.