It’s been two years since Giuliana Rancic made some ill-advised comments about Zendaya’s dreadlocks at the 2015 Oscars — and now the Fashion Police host’s Washington, DC, eatery, RPM Italian, is being accused of racism.
Giuliana, 43 — who was slammed for saying Zendaya’s braids probably smelled like “patchouli” and “weed” — and husband Bill Rancic’s upscale eatery is facing allegations of racial profiling by an angry customer who wrote into The Washington Post’s Ask Tom chat.
“Went to RPM on Tuesday. My cousin and I were the first ones through the door (reservation for 11:30 AM). In a completely empty restaurant, they chose to seat us in a two-fer, those tiny tables for two. I noticed that the white woman who came right behind us was seated in a nice, comfortable booth. Later, a young man in a t-shirt came to join her. For the next hour, every party was seated in the booths or at a table for four, even the ones who came in twos. It wasn’t until an hour later when a black woman came in by herself that another small table like ours was used. See the picture?”
The woman then asked The Washington Post’s food critic Tom Sietsema to share his thoughts about racism in restaurants. “Since the racial issue is much in the news these days, would you like to comment on racial bias in seating of restaurant guests? Or are you scared of the issue? I encounter this kind of bias frequently, especially in high-end restaurants,” she wrote. “I am small and grey-haired, a most unimposing-looking Asian woman. People have no way of knowing about my advanced degrees, my IQ, and more importantly to Americans, my net worth.”
The upset customer went on to describe the treatment she received from the restaurant’s employees, which she considered racist. “Frankly, I detest those very small tables. I thought since it was restaurant week that the place would be packed solid or I would have protested right away. But most patrons who came in after us came in twos and were seated in larger tables. I mentioned this to our server after an hour and she called the manager,” she continued. “The manager, an attractive blonde, told me that she felt bad that I felt that way. Now, it was my feelings that was a problem. She couldn’t see the implicit bias the host (a white–skinned man who spoke with an accent, probably Latin) exhibited in the seating of the guests.”
The woman also noted that “the food there wasn’t that exceptional” and said that “you can get better pasta in some suburban restaurants,” before concluding her rant with this final question: “When is this going to end? Should we have a list of racist restaurants where minorities should not go?”
In response, culinary expert Tom wrote, “Whoo boy. While I’m not afraid to broach sensitive issues in this forum, I’m not sure your one experience at RPM should be considered the norm there (or anywhere else, for that matter). If it makes you feel any better, I’ve received similar complaints about profiling in restaurants from just about every demographic you can think of, including gays, twentysomethings, senior citizens, parents with babies in tow and African-Americans.”
Giuliana and Bill — who opened the restaurant in 2016 — have yet to publicly address the claims.