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Roberto Donna Loses Court Battle


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Wow, that makes slightly over $800k that he now owes. Hopefully those former employees actually get their money for all those hours they worked for him. I am surprised by the support he gets considering what he has done.

Actually, over $902,000. I think folks are trying to support the great chef we know him to be rather than the horrific businessman that has been revealed through all this. But no question, it's getting almost impossible to make the distinction.

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Wow, that makes slightly over $800k that he now owes. Hopefully those former employees actually get their money for all those hours they worked for him. I am surprised by the support he gets considering what he has done.

edited to add the Judge's opinion. Click.

It seems that perhaps Roberto Donna is the Michael Vick of the dining scene...? :) Successful and great at what he does, a phoenix of sorts, but perhaps no matter how well he continues to do it, the problems of the past are never forgotten... an intriguing conundrum to see play out... for both "stars". Vick served his time, now Donna has to "pay his dues"... which will take some time and effort on his part, but also his fans continued patronage to his current venture.

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Wow, that makes slightly over $800k that he now owes. Hopefully those former employees actually get their money for all those hours they worked for him. I am surprised by the support he gets considering what he has done.

edited to add the Judge's opinion. Click.

I think some of the support he gets currently is based on the fact that he can't pay any of those debts if he isn't cooking, and cooking well. So I think at this point going and eating at the restaurant supports his past employees, Arlington County and etc. Probably at more than any other time he is cooking to make sure he and his family are ok, so I am sure that he isn't taking his time in the restaurant for granted. For him now every night counts.

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I think some of the support he gets currently is based on the fact that he can't pay any of those debts if he isn't cooking, and cooking well. So I think at this point going and eating at the restaurant supports his past employees, Arlington County and etc. Probably at more than any other time he is cooking to make sure he and his family are ok, so I am sure that he isn't taking his time in the restaurant for granted. For him now every night counts.

So you are saying that I need to support his victims by patronizing his restaurant? Please! Why can't he pay his debts with the monies made and stole in his previous endeavors?

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The fact that we seem to give him a pass is more based on old friendships rather then the facts, just my opinion. I have not been to the restaurant nor will I ever go. I can not get beyond his Business practices, including the theft and his inability to pay his employees , wages and collected tips. People make mistakes and should get second chances, but there is a overall pattern. For my the hiding of assets, not having any property registered in his name, and the way the ownership is set up for the new place suggest to me that he is not trying to make amends, but avoid. This is all public information and a issue that the eating public has every right to be vocal about.

Not paying the employees Tips and Wages is not acceptable under any circumstance for me, it is not excusable and in my opinion there should be more outrage. I only hope that the current staff are getting paid. Maybe he should do without and get some money into the workers hands quickly.

If he makes amends and pays them back I will think about supporting him, until than he is not getting my money.

I would suggest that if anyone has a contrary opinion read the ruling that is attached int the thread.

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This question is for Mr. Donna:

I am a believer in redemption and second chances.

However, your behavior, which I have heard of anecdotally for a decade and legally for a year, has me doubtful. How do you plan on making restitution to those you have wronged thorugh Giii? You have stated that you have taken a job making just "$50,000" because you are trying to do good and be a good citizen. Was no one willing to offer you more than $50K a year? Surely, your talents would command 3x that amount.

So I am asking you, why, with the amount of debt you have incurred, would you take a job that pays you, at a minimum, 50% of your market value?

It appears to me that the stucture of your new endeavor, as portrayed in the Wash Post, is set up to protect you from liability. So tell me my fears are unwarranted.

Tell me it is an accident that Giii, a restaurant you have no legal interest in and are merely an employee, is marketed with your name, your likeness, your menus, you, you, you. Tell me it is not about just enriching...... you. It's about making amends. Convince me.

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This question is for Mr. Donna:

I am a believer in redemption and second chances.

However, your behavior which I have heard of anecdotally for a decade and legally for a year, has me doubtful. How do you plan on making restitution to those you have wronged thorugh Giii? You have stated that you have taken a job making just "$50,000" because you are trying to do good and be a good citizen. Was no one willing to offer you more than $50K a year? Surely, your talents would command 3x that amount.

So I am asking you, why, with the amount of debt you have incurred, would you take a job that pays you, at a minimum, 50% of your market value?

It appears to me that if the stucture of your new endeavor, as portrayed in the Wash Post, is set up to protect you from liability. So tell me my fears are unwarranted.

Tell me it is an accident that Giii, a restaurant you have no legal interest in and are merely an employee, is marketed with your name, your likeness, your menus, you, you, you. Tell me it is not about just enriching...... you. It's about making amends. Convince me.

Check out the diamonds dripping off the hostess and you begin to get the picture...

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It seems that perhaps Roberto Donna is the Michael Vick of the dining scene...? :) Successful and great at what he does, a phoenix of sorts, but perhaps no matter how well he continues to do it, the problems of the past are never forgotten... an intriguing conundrum to see play out... for both "stars". Vick served his time, now Donna has to "pay his dues"... which will take some time and effort on his part, but also his fans continued patronage to his current venture.

I don't know if your analogy holds up on the Donna end, but it makes precisely no sense on the Vick side.

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This question is for Mr. Donna:

I am a believer in redemption and second chances.

However, your behavior, which I have heard of anecdotally for a decade and legally for a year, has me doubtful. How do you plan on making restitution to those you have wronged thorugh Giii? You have stated that you have taken a job making just "$50,000" because you are trying to do good and be a good citizen. Was no one willing to offer you more than $50K a year? Surely, your talents would command 3x that amount.

So I am asking you, why, with the amount of debt you have incurred, would you take a job that pays you, at a minimum, 50% of your market value?

It appears to me that the stucture of your new endeavor, as portrayed in the Wash Post, is set up to protect you from liability. So tell me my fears are unwarranted.

Tell me it is an accident that Giii, a restaurant you have no legal interest in and are merely an employee, is marketed with your name, your likeness, your menus, you, you, you. Tell me it is not about just enriching...... you. It's about making amends. Convince me.

I don`t think Donna will respond to this but he might give you a 5 course $55 deal.

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So you are saying that I need to support his victims by patronizing his restaurant? Please! Why can't he pay his debts with the monies made and stole in his previous endeavors?

Well if you understand collection laws/ bankruptcy laws and the price of trying to collect judgments you might understand how difficult doing what you suggest is, quite frankly it's impossible. You can only collect what money is there now, and then there is the issue of jointly titled property. Him going to jail would only make that pot less. But him having a salary means his wages will be garnished and that isn't as costly as many other collection methods.

Maybe he is being underpayed, but that wouldn't benefit him. It means he will have his wages garnished for a longer period of time, he will be working for more years, he will have a collections going on for a longer period of time anytime he ever gets anything. And if you think he might be getting an influx of cash in another way I doubt it because I am sure there are numerous collections and tax attorneys carefully going through all of his financials, especially for taxes. In this day and age it is harder and harder to hide cash.

And I am sure he couldn't finance the restaurant or get any credit if he had any ownership of the restaurant and no one who would work for him if he controlled the ship so of course he doesn't own it. He wouldn't be able to own a restaurant. So I don't think that is a sham either, just the reality of royally screwing up and now having large debts and no credit.

If he can do press and earn more money it helps him pay off these judgments, and eases his stress level and helps his family so I am not sure that is a great arguement. I don't think there is any reason it makes sense not to take more money if you could get it. He might be being payed such a low salary because the owners aren't sure from past experiences how successful this venture will be, especially with his current lack of appeal to many and down economy in higher end dining.

I am in no way saying what he did is good or that he should benefit from it, I am just saying that the only way these people will get paid is if he is successful, that is reality. So I think people going and dining at the restaurant shouldn't be lauded as supporting a monster. And the press of course want to interview him, or have him on chats because he will bring in readership and that is what they are all about.

I am not saying you have to patronize his restaurant, I am saying though that in reality that is the only way the debts will get paid so you shouldn't be so critical of others who go if you really so deeply care about these people being paid.

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He might be being payed such a low salary because the owners aren't sure from past experiences how successful this venture will be

It is worth keeping in mind that the owners are his long time business partner and his wife. According to the Washington Post:

"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." -J. Freedon du Lac, Aug 8, 2010.

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If he can do press and earn more money it helps him pay off these judgments, and eases his stress level and helps his family so I am not sure that is a great arguement. I don't think there is any reason it makes sense not to take more money if you could get it. He might be being payed such a low salary because the owners aren't sure from past experiences how successful this venture will be, especially with his current lack of appeal to many and down economy in higher end dining.

FYI - According to the Post, Galileo III is owned by a company which is co-managed by Roberto's wife and a long time business partner/occasional bookeeper of Roberto. So, hypothetically speaking, it would be entirely possible for the restaurant's success to benefit Roberto in ways that cannot be garnished/seized.

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It is worth keeping in mind that the owners are his long time business partner and his wife. According to the Washington Post:

"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." -J. Freedon du Lac, Aug 8, 2010.

There is almost no chance that his salary is based on his damaged reputation. He is quite obviously playing hide the assets so that he can get by paying as little as possible while benefiting from the business. I bet his wife's salary more than makes up for his below market price salary.

Of course he can easily show everyone that he has made amends and quickly pay everyone back. I, for one, am not holding my breath.

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There is almost no chance that his salary is based on his damaged reputation. He is quite obviously playing hide the assets so that he can get by paying as little as possible while benefiting from the business. I bet his wife's salary more than makes up for his below market price salary.

Of course he can easily show everyone that he has made amends and quickly pay everyone back. I, for one, am not holding my breath.

Neither am I, Mike.

(ETA: LOL-ing at my editing skills. When you change quotes be sure to edit the author's name...)

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So much for assurances. Bonino himself is a co-defendant in an ongoing civil case brought in US District Court by Italian winery Cascina Ca' de Lupis, which makes numerous allegations including fraud, and conspiracy. Donna is also accused of conspiring with Bonino to defraud Cascina over a ten month period in 2005-6, during which Bonino was hired as the winery's US sales representative: directing the importation of wine valued at $600,000, distributing all of it to Donna at a fraction of its price through one of Bonino's companies registered at Galileo's address, and then failing to pay either Cascina or its licensed importer the cost of the wines, allegedly in exchange for employment and part ownership of Donna's Trattoria Beppo. Cascina claims they are still owed $415,000.

If true, this is considerably more complicated than bouncing a check to your produce vendor - not that that would be acceptable either.

Docket update from March 2010 here; commentary by Mike Doyle on the McClatchy legal blog here, including a missed warning that "foodies and restaurant critics out there might want to check out the discovery in this baby." :)

So, does Roberto still own that rumored castle outside of Torino?

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Before the debate over whether Mr. Donna is a tortured, misunderstood, creative genius whose Art caused him, nay forced him, to steal from the Commonwealth and to neglect such trivial matters as paying his staff versus a common criminal continues ad nauseum, I am sure that at the very least Chris (HappyGuy) can assure us that the current employees are being paid fully, fairly and in a timely fashion--even though the word on the street already says otherwise.

Right Chris?

I am not sure how he was given credit for being merely a terrible businessman, when these confessed crimes point more to the acts of a terrible human being.

(I'll edit to meet the board's standards, Don).

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Before the debate over whether Mr. Donna is a tortured, misunderstood, creative genius whose Art caused him, nay forced him, to steal from the Commonwealth and to neglect such trivial matters as paying his staff versus a common criminal continues ad nauseum, I am sure that at the very least Chris (HappyGuy) can assure us that the current employees are being paid fully, fairly and in a timely fashion--even though the word on the street already says otherwise.

Right Chris?

(I've been kind of wondering when someone was going to bring this up ...)

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In retrospect, I regret the Leni Riefenshtahl line.

I am not sure why you regret it. Yes, it was filled with hyperbole, but it was an apt analogy, both she and Donna were blessed with amazing talent, and both used it in the worst possible way (OK, being Jeffery Dahmer’s sous chef might have been a worse choice for Roberto).

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So, does Roberto still own that rumored castle outside of Torino?

-He owns one on Georgetown pike!! in Mclean.

-That house is worth over a million$

- If he were to sell that house, he could pay those people who clearly deserve and in need of the money more!???! and buy himself another house and live in.

- Instead he makes only 50k$ a year and he will pay less tax!!

- All he does and says is `he is making amends`

- I hope he does make those amends

- what goes around, comes around, possibly biting the ass big time!!

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In retrospect, I regret the Leni Riefenshtahl line.

I am not sure why you regret it. Yes, it was filled with hyperbole, but it was an apt analogy, both she and Donna were blessed with amazing talent, and both used it in the worst possible way (OK, being Jeffery Dahmer’s sous chef might have been a worse choice for Roberto).

I'm with Sthitch. It was a little hyperbolic, yes, but the post was still brilliant.

The tipping point for me in this was the judgement about stiffing his employees. That's inexcusable, and it would be nice to hear a little remorse from the man.

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There are unsigned checks being written.

There are bouncing checks being written.

I'm officially "neutral," but being neutral implies considering both (or multiple) sides of an equation.

This story will play out however it plays out.

Cheers,

Julian Assange (*) ou, en français, <<un singe>>

(*) NB in Franglais, that means "Ass Angel; written in French, it means "a monkey."

Wrap

I'm just a Thor Pido

lyin' in ma Speedo (**)

Gangin', hangin',

Masturbatido.

Cheeze,

Jewel E. N. Libido.

(**) Gruesome Thought #3

-- by Roi Lick Tin Stein

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I had two meals at Galileo III recently. I'm not a defender of Roberto Donna, because his past behavior is not something I can defend. But I was willing to give his prior actions a pass and eat at his restaurant for a couple of reasons.

First, it's a pretty safe bet that he's not the only person in the industry in DC who has violated legal or ethical standards, and it seemed somewhat silly to boycott his restaurant when I'm quite sure I've spent my money in places where far more serious criminal behavior has simply managed to avoid notice.

Second, and more importantly, there are legal procedures for addressing this kind of behavior, and action is being taken in more than one jurisdiction. If punishment, and redress, are in progress at the direction of the courts, then I'm comfortable leaving it up to people who are more knowledgeable about the facts and the law, and whose job it is to oversee such things. To me, there's a big difference between someone actively getting away with scummy behavior, and someone who is being held accountable for his actions. The recent court rulings are, to me, a positive thing, a first step towards resolution. Paying the money back is the next step, and how well that will work out is still unclear, but I'm willing to let the system work, if it looks like it is working.

So I went, I ate, and I enjoyed, without guilt.

But now, after Michael's and Don's comments, I'll have to reconsider. If some of the same crap is happening again, if Donna - or anyone else involved in the management of this restaurant - is screwing employees again, then the system is not working, and I'll take my money elsewhere.

But I'll miss the food.

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So I went, I ate, and I enjoyed, without guilt.

But now, after Michael's and Don's comments, I'll have to reconsider. If some of the same crap is happening again, if Donna - or anyone else involved in the management of this restaurant - is screwing employees again, then the system is not working, and I'll take my money elsewhere.

But I'll miss the food.

He did these scams in DC at the original Galileo before he opened Bebo and continued to do the same things at Bebo. Was that not a sign for you?The system is obviously not working. I`m just curious!

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I don't know if your analogy holds up on the Donna end, but it makes precisely no sense on the Vick side.

Those of you involved with criminal law and/or PR should be writing up papers for your respective academic journals on the way Vick has handled his problems. This, after all, is someone who may be raising the Super Bowl trophy over his head early next year. It could happen. And, while people will undoubtedly continue to condemn him for his crimes, nobody will be able to show how he has put one foot wrong since he was arrested. It seems he hired very good counsel and listened to them. Took his medicine, paid all that was asked of him, and has never complained (at least in public) about his treatment. We may be hearing the word "redemption" an awful lot and very soon. Other than committing hari-kari on the 50-yard line, I'm at a loss to suggest what else he could have done. Roberto Donna needs to take some notes. So, unless and until Donna makes good to everyone he has cheated, he will not be getting a single dime from me; I don't care how good his food is--and I ate once at the original Gallileo and saw no reason to return--others in this town provide much better food without stealing from their employees (I'm looking at YOU, Tom Power :)).

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Those of you involved with criminal law and/or PR should be writing up papers for your respective academic journals on the way Vick has handled his problems. This, after all, is someone who may be raising the Super Bowl trophy over his head early next year. It could happen. And, while people will undoubtedly continue to condemn him for his crimes, nobody will be able to show how he has put one foot wrong since he was arrested. It seems he hired very good counsel and listened to them. Took his medicine, paid all that was asked of him, and has never complained (at least in public) about his treatment. We may be hearing the word "redemption" an awful lot and very soon. Other than committing hari-kari on the 50-yard line, I'm at a loss to suggest what else he could have done. Roberto Donna needs to take some notes. So, unless and until Donna makes good to everyone he has cheated, he will not be getting a single dime from me; I don't care how good his food is--and I ate once at the original Gallileo and saw no reason to return--others in this town provide much better food without stealing from their employees (I'm looking at YOU, Tom Power :) ).

Is there a "like" button? (Sorry, confused with other site.)

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Obviously not, but sometimes I wonder if having one wouldn't let people express themselves without piling on to a thread. Let's try to keep the discourse substantive, everybody. Thanks.

You are wise beyond your years, young man. And also the single most underrated food writer in the city,

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Docket update from March 2010 here; commentary by Mike Doyle on the McClatchy legal blog here, including a missed warning that "foodies and restaurant critics out there might want to check out the discovery in this baby." :)

Interesting. Didn't something very similar happen to Roberto Donna's wine company, Il Cuoco? It was in the mid-late 90's, but if I recall correctly it shuttrered in a cloud of allegations.

I could not find anything on Google, but I am sure that there was legal action taken by allegedly aggrieved parties.

ETA* removal of things I had heard from third parties.

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There have been some ongoing payment issues. The owner, Corrado Bonino returned from Italy just last week and has been working to rectify the situation and bring everyone current by this week. We have a great staff and product here at Galileo III and I wish nothing more than to maintain that.

Aaaaaaaaaaand, scene.

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There have been some ongoing payment issues. The owner, Corrado Bonino returned from Italy just last week and has been working to rectify the situation and bring everyone current by this week. We have a great staff and product here at Galileo III and I wish nothing more than to maintain that.

Then he shouldn't be in business.

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There have been some ongoing payment issues. The owner, Corrado Bonino returned from Italy just last week and has been working to rectify the situation and bring everyone current by this week. We have a great staff and product here at Galileo III and I wish nothing more than to maintain that.

And to begin Act 2, everyone is now current, right?

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Did he ever resolve the alledged financial mess he was in?

This is not to pick on Marks or any of the other people who made similar comments, but i'm curious--can someone explain to me why this persists in being an issue and possibly preventing people from going to the restaurant while Eric Bruner-Yang's arrest (and guilty plea!) for assault, regarding his ex-girlfriend and her fiancee doesn't seem to be a problem? not that what donna did was acceptable, but i find the actions of bruner-yang (showing up at his ex girlfriend's place in the early morning, rushing in, and then, when her fiance pushes you out, yelling "i'll kill you", trying to choke him, and beating him) far, far more problematic.

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This is not to pick on Marks or any of the other people who made similar comments, but i'm curious--can someone explain to me why this persists in being an issue and possibly preventing people from going to the restaurant while Eric Bruner-Yang's arrest (and guilty plea!) for assault, regarding his ex-girlfriend and her fiancee doesn't seem to be a problem? not that what donna did was acceptable, but i find the actions of bruner-yang (showing up at his ex girlfriend's place in the early morning, rushing in, and then, when her fiance pushes you out, yelling "i'll kill you", trying to choke him, and beating him) far, far more problematic.

My guess (and its just a guess) is that one incident was a one-time, drunken, private matter; the other was a prolonged, sober, misuse of public funds.

If someone made a highlight reel of the ten worst or most bizarre things I've ever done, I'd either be in a prison, a psychiatric institution, or a graveyard - but overall, I think I'm a pretty good guy.

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This is not to pick on Marks or any of the other people who made similar comments, but i'm curious--can someone explain to me why this persists in being an issue and possibly preventing people from going to the restaurant while Eric Bruner-Yang's arrest (and guilty plea!) for assault, regarding his ex-girlfriend and her fiancee doesn't seem to be a problem? not that what donna did was acceptable, but i find the actions of bruner-yang (showing up at his ex girlfriend's place in the early morning, rushing in, and then, when her fiance pushes you out, yelling "i'll kill you", trying to choke him, and beating him) far, far more problematic.

To add to what Rocks wrote, it's rather simple IMHO. It isn't the case here where the only alternative to Roberto Donna is the Olive Garden. There are so many, many very fine, and conscientious, chefs in the area putting out good to excellent food that there is no reason to throw any money at somebody who cheated his own employees and the taxpayers of Virginia. It's the same reason I happily shop at Costco but have never set foot in a Walmart--and never will. It's called "voting with your wallet."  I also have a rather sad memory of a very expensive meal at Galileo (my late FIL chose the place and picked up the tab) that nobody thought was worth the time and trouble it took to get there--and for all of us this involved getting from Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and Adams Morgan to 21st and L Sts. I also have issues with violent men--but I've never patronized Eric Bruner-Yang's restaurant. I'm with Rocks on this: if this turns out to be a one-off event, then youth and alcohol have to be considered. If he turns out to be a serial woman abuser, then he won't be seeing my face or money anywhere near him.

There are certainly people on this board (and everywhere else, for that matter) who feel differently about this issue. Nevertheless, there are clearly some of us who won't patronize Donna until he makes good on his debts. Which he hasn't done. For me, there is nothing he could prepare that wouldn't taste like ashes.

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To add to what Rocks wrote, it's rather simple IMHO. It isn't the case here where the only alternative to Roberto Donna is the Olive Garden. There are so many, many very fine, and conscientious, chefs in the area putting out good to excellent food that there is no reason to throw any money at somebody who cheated his own employees and the taxpayers of Virginia. It's the same reason I happily shop at Costco but have never set foot in a Walmart--and never will. It's called "voting with your wallet."  I also have a rather sad memory of a very expensive meal at Galileo (my late FIL chose the place and picked up the tab) that nobody thought was worth the time and trouble it took to get there--and for all of us this involved getting from Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and Adams Morgan to 21st and L Sts. I also have issues with violent men--but I've never patronized Eric Bruner-Yang's restaurant. I'm with Rocks on this: if this turns out to be a one-off event, then youth and alcohol have to be considered. If he turns out to be a serial woman abuser, then he won't be seeing my face or money anywhere near him.

There are certainly people on this board (and everywhere else, for that matter) who feel differently about this issue. Nevertheless, there are clearly some of us who won't patronize Donna until he makes good on his debts. Which he hasn't done. For me, there is nothing he could prepare that wouldn't taste like ashes.

Many feel as you do.  But at the same time, mixing up economic/business decisions with political and social values and beliefs sometimes involves its own slippery slope.

Here's a hypothetical.  Suppose you, a liberal, have a choice in an election for your congressperson. One is a progressive Democrat who will support your viewpoint in the legislature, but it's pretty clear the fellow is a womanizer, drinks a lot, and has had some personal bankruptcies and a trail of unpaid debts.  The other is a Tea Party Republican, who has been an exemplary father and family man, and always pays his bills.   For whom do you vote?

Why is it OK to cut some slack for Bruner-Yang based on youth and alcohol, but not to do the same for Donna who grew up in Italy, a place with a well-known culture of tax avoidance and even perhaps spotty employee-employer relations?

And where is the fairness in saying one would patronize Donna after he pays off his debts, when the only way he can generate the resources to do that is if people patronize him in the first place?

These are not matters that lend themselves to easy responses.

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