Popular restaurant Maggiano’s Little Italy was embroiled in controversy last weekend after hosting a post-conference dinner for white nationalist group, the National Policy Institute. Now the restaurant has apologized, saying it had no idea it was hosting a group of white supremacists in its fine establishment Friday night.
The controversial alt-right group, which has ties to the white nationalist movement, had its annual conference in Washington, D.C., over the weekend. The group had trouble booking a dinner venue, for obvious reasons, but managed to get a spot at the Maggiano’s location in Chevy Chase, D.C., by booking the reservation under a different name, according to the restaurant.
Once word got out that the racist guests were dining there, social media posts calling for an all-out boycott of the restaurant began circulating on Facebook. Angry protesters even stormed a Maggiano’s in Friendship Heights, forcing it to close out of safety concerns for its workers and patrons.
In a Facebook post published Monday, the restaurant issued a formal apology and insisted it was totally unaware of the National Policy Institute and its racist ties. Maggiano’s staff said the group booked its private banquet dinner under a different name, so the family-style restaurant had no way of knowing who they were really hosting.
“We are open to the public and serve delicious food to guests who come from all walks of life,” a previous post from the restaurant read. “The only party we favor is the one which serves lasagna with marinara sauce and a good red wine.”
Disturbing images from the banquet showing National Policy Institute members holding their arms in a stiff “Heil, Hitler” salute came just days before video surfaced online of alt-right founder Richard B. Spencer addressing over 200 conference attendees in a speech loaded with tons of Nazi-esque jargon.
According to The Atlantic, Spencer has described the alt-right movement as his dream for “a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans.” He has even advocated for “peaceful ethnic cleansing,” but maintains he isn’t a racist.
“America was, until this past generation, a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity,” Spencer said in his speech. “It is our creation, it is our inheritance and it belongs to us. Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”
Video of the address showed the crowd erupting in applause, some even jumping to their feet and again giving the Nazi salute.
To rectify its major faux pas in hosting the overtly racist group, Maggiano’s announced plans to donate all the profits — over $10,000, reportedly — to a nonprofit dedicated to ridding the world of hate, D.C.’s WJLA reports. It’s hoped that former patrons will be willing to give the family-friendly restaurant another chance. However, some might not be so forgiving.