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Barilla Pasta Opens Restaurant in Mega-Gay Midtown Manhattan

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Friday Mar 14, 2014

After inciting rage and boycotts across the globe for last fall's anti-gay comments, Barilla, the world's largest pasta producer, has now opened the doors to an Italian restaurant in mega-gay midtown Manhattan, home to Broadway and nearby gayborhood Hell's Kitchen.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Academia Barilla restaurant opened on 52nd Street and Sixth Avenue about three months ago, to minimum fanfare. They are hoping to expand to locations in Bryant Park and Herald Square. But they recognize this won't be a piece of cake (or is it pizza pie?)

"Restaurant CEO Stefano Albano said he knows that breaking into New York City's Italian food market won't be easy. In the past decade, the city's Italian culinary scene has evolved beyond red-sauce classics on checkered tablecloths," writes the WSJ's Prevaiz Shallwani.

Albano told the WSJ that "We are in the business to please people. I need to balance out the things that we know people want and the things we know we want to offer to people that make us who we are."

Professing to be in the business of pleasing people is particularly ironic in the face of last fall's anti-gay tirade by Barilla Chairman Guido Barilla made during an interview on Italian radio, which alienated a wide swath of customers.

"I would not do a commercial with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect toward homosexuals -- who have the right to do whatever they want without disturbing others -- but because I don't agree with them, and I think we want to talk to traditional families," he said. "For us, the 'sacral family' remains one of the company's core values. Our family is a traditional family. If gays like our pasta and our advertisings, they will eat our pasta; if they don't like that, they will eat someone else's pasta.

And boy, did they. It was reported that an instantaneous boycott of Barilla products followed, under the Twitter hashtag #boicottabarilla. Pasta company Buitoni was among those quick to post on Facebook that their macaroni was "pasta for all." Gay groups were just as quick to condemn Barilla's hate speech.

"These insulting anti-gay comments will not only lead to LGBT people skipping Barilla in favor of more inclusive brands like Bertolli, but their family members, friends and co-workers as well," said Rich Ferraro, Vice President of Communications of GLAAD. Homophobia is bad for business -- plain and simple. Mr. Barilla's opinion is ill informed, and he will soon learn that the new traditional family accepts gay and lesbian families and does not support companies that promote discrimination."

Barilla later apologized via their Facebook page,in October 2013.

A Barilla spokesperson reached out with the following statement:

"Within one week of his remarks this past September, the Barilla chairman, Guido Barilla, made a public apology and met privately with several LGBT leaders and organizations in Italy and the U.S. to personally apologize and to listen and learn about the evolution of the family. Since then, the company continues to make strong progress towards enhancing this commitment including supporting the Tyler Clementi Foundation and appointing the company's first Chief Diversity Officer."

So I guess that's all squared away. Take that, Olive Garden! Looks like there's a super-cool new place for gays to hang out in Midtown...

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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