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Holy Truffled Scallops, Batman — Restaurant Sues Reviewer!


— August 22, 2004

Three of my favorite things are newspapers, restaurants, and strange lawsuits. Now they’re all rolled into one in this juicy nugget of salacious goodness!

Restaurateur Phil Romano wants to put a few people on notice, namely Dallas restaurant critics. Romano is mad as hell, and he’s not going to chew their tripe anymore. To prove he means business, last week Romano slapped Dallas Morning News restaurant critic Dotty Griffith and the Belo Corp., the newspaper’s parent, with a suit alleging fraud, malice, defamation and an “attempt to cripple the business of one of Dallas’ finest new restaurants” via an April 16 restaurant review. That finest new restaurant is Il Mulino New York, the Romano-shepherded Dallas extension of the much heralded Greenwich Village venue founded in 1981 by Fernando and Gino Masci.

What did Griffith do to stoke such wrath? She awarded Il Mulino four out of five stars (3.5 for food). But what steams Romano is the apparent disconnect between that row of stars and the supporting narrative in Griffith’s review. “With what she said about Il Mulino, I shouldn’t have gotten any stars,” Romano argues. . . .


Three of my favorite things are newspapers, restaurants, and strange lawsuits. Now they’re all rolled into one in this juicy nugget of salacious goodness!

Restaurateur Phil Romano wants to put a few people on notice, namely Dallas restaurant critics. Romano is mad as hell, and he’s not going to chew their tripe anymore. To prove he means business, last week Romano slapped Dallas Morning News restaurant critic Dotty Griffith and the Belo Corp., the newspaper’s parent, with a suit alleging fraud, malice, defamation and an “attempt to cripple the business of one of Dallas’ finest new restaurants” via an April 16 restaurant review. That finest new restaurant is Il Mulino New York, the Romano-shepherded Dallas extension of the much heralded Greenwich Village venue founded in 1981 by Fernando and Gino Masci.

What did Griffith do to stoke such wrath? She awarded Il Mulino four out of five stars (3.5 for food). But what steams Romano is the apparent disconnect between that row of stars and the supporting narrative in Griffith’s review. “With what she said about Il Mulino, I shouldn’t have gotten any stars,” Romano argues. . . .

[R]omano cites a handful of instances to justify his ire. In the review, Griffith posits that Il Mulino’s spaghetti Bolognese and penne with tomato vodka sauce are overwrought with butter (not a drop of butter in there, Romano insists); that the risotto is partially cooked in advance and then finished to order (a “scandalous accusation,” bristles the suit); and that the porcini-stuffed ravioli with champagne truffle sauce “whispered of Gorgonzola” (no Gorgonzola in the dish, Romano says, though more than a few ingredients could arguably speak in such tangy tones).

Yet it would be ludicrous to file a fraud/defamation/malice suit based on possibly mistaken sauce and rice-prep impressions. So, Romano adds a couple of other charges. . . .

[R]omano says he had no choice but to file a lawsuit. The News refused to print four letters to the editor challenging Griffith’s assessment of Il Mulino, and the paper declined to issue a correction. A lawsuit was his only recourse, he says. But his story isn’t the only thing he wants to get out. He wants to keep Dallas Morning News writers out of his establishments, which include Nick & Sam’s and Medici in addition to Il Mulino. “One of the things I’m gonna want out of this is an injunction to keep them out of my restaurants,” Romano pledges. “They can’t do it right. I don’t want them in there.”

Obviously, there was no option but to sue. Allegations of butter in the Bolognese?! Gorgonzola in the porcini-stuffed ravioli??!! What’s next? Slanderous hints of cardamom in the duck l’orange? Mon dieu!

Details here from the Dallas Observer. Obviously, an injunction must issue. Forthwith!

Talk about your “imminent and irreparable harm”! We can’t very well have these unwashed newspaper people running amok, willy-nilly printing things about imaginary “whisper[s] of Gorgonzola”!

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