Trending: Food critic has ‘racist’ experience at Toronto restaurant

By Betty Wondimu

A Toronto woman had an “embarrassing and uncomfortable” dining experience on her birthday last year and now wants the world to know about it.

Blogger Eden Hagos posted a write-up on her site Black Foodie last week, describing what she calls a “racist” experience at local Italian restaurant Bar Italia on her 25th birthday.

The post has since been shared over 220 times and reached over 27,000 people on Facebook. She said this is because many can relate to her experience of “dining while black.”

“I’ve never experienced anything like this before at a restaurant in my life, but in terms of people of colour feeling like they’re being treated differently because of the way they look, this is a very common experience,” Hagos said.

In the post, she describes a night of tense interactions with two staff members on opposite ends of the service spectrum: An inattentive waitress and a confrontational manager.

She said it’s important for her to share her story now because it was what sparked her to create her blog one year ago.

“At that time I felt powerless. Since then, I’ve created a movement to explore food through a black lens,” she said.

Hagos said the restaurant manager insisted some of her friends pay a cover charge in order to watch a live performance upstairs. The performance was supposed to be complementary to anyone who ordered dinner that night according to the restaurant’s policy.

The restaurant owner told CityNews that not everyone in Hagos’ party had ordered dinner. For her part, Hagos says her friends simply hadn’t ordered food yet, and had every intention of doing so.

After the confrontation with the manager, Hagos said she and her friends no longer felt welcome, so they paid their bills and left before enjoying any of the live show.

Joe Bonavota, the owner of Bar Italia, said the post is libellous and unacceptable.

“Because she couldn’t go upstairs, we’re racist?” he asked.

“It had nothing to do with what you look like or who you are, it came down to five of her nine people at the table not eating dinner and wanting to go upstairs for free… and I can’t do that.”

In the post, Hagos said the incident changed how she writes about food, and how she’ll be celebrating her birthday this year. She said she spent her birthday with family in Chicago “eating lots and lots of cake.”

Hagos has also created a hashtag and is asking anyone with similar experiences of #diningwhileblack to share their experiences.



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