An Italian-American leader already unhappy about the arrival of VH1’s “Mob Wives Chicago” said any business that participates in the reality show should expect protests.
But the owner of an Elmwood Park restaurant who’s drawing criticism for allowing the show to shoot at his place last month has one bit of advice for Louis Rago and the Italian-American Human Relations Foundation of Chicago:
“It’s entertainment,” said Rich Mazzulla, owner of Baciami! Restaurant and Bar. “If people don’t like it, don’t watch it.”
That’s not good enough for Rago, who said he fought the original “Mob Wives” series when it filmed in New York and New Jersey. “Mob Wives Chicago” has been filming here since December.
“Our organization fights stereotypes through the performing arts,” Rago said. “It hurts even more when an Italian-American buys into this.”
Rago’s group is organizing a formal protest of Baciami!
Mazzulla’s “name is going to be placed on a list, and members will begin phoning the restaurant to tell him how unhappy we are about what he’s done,” he said.
Rago said other locations are being targeted as well.
“There may be a sit-in at one of these locations. (Italian-Americans) don’t want people making money off their heritage in that light,” he said.
The show revolves around five women who were either married to or are relatives of reputed members of the Chicago mob.
Camera crews filmed for about four hours March 23 at Baciami!, 18 W. Conti Parkway, Mazzulla said. The restaurant and bar, which opened in 1997, serves classic Italian dishes, sandwiches, ribs and pizza.
Mazzulla said the majority of the filming involved cast member Leah DeSimone having lunch with her father, William “Wolf” DeSimone, who VH1 bills as an “associate” of The Outfit.
Leah DeSimone is an X-ray and nail technician who lives with her dad on Taylor Street in Chicago’s Little Italy.
“Leah is a friend of mine,” Mazzulla said. “She is trying to help me and I was trying to help her.
“The least of our problems in this country, state, city or town is ‘Mob Wives,’” he said. “There are a lot bigger things going on than to go after a guy who was promoting his business.”
Not every business has been so welcoming, though.
The Sun-Times’ Stella Foster in December reported that Tony Durpetti, owner of Gene & Georgetti’s steakhouse in Chicago, refused to allow the producers of the “Mob Wives ” to film at his restaurant and vowed to personally escort them out should they show up.
Noted restaurant owners Phil Stefani, Alex Dana and Joey DiBuono also said then they would not participate in the show, Foster reported.
Rago said more needs to be done to send a message so the studios will stop making shows like “Mob Wives” or “Jersey Shore.”
“I’m a funeral director,” Rago said. “I’ve been in the homes of Italian-Americans since I was 12. These (‘Mob Wives’) women are imitating and living the life of how they think they are perceived and it is sad.
“We’re indoctrinated with ‘Godfather,’ ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Casino’ movies and those big mafia shows that didn’t make the big screen,” he said.
“Television is a vast wasteland,” Rago said. “Reality TV is the cheapest saddest form of entertainment. Shame on us for accepting this as entertainment.”
Contributing: Lori Rackl