Customer Defends Claim He Was Kicked Out of Pane Bianco for Speaking Spanish; Chef Chris Bianco Responds

Categories: News

panebianco-counter-lawton.jpeg
Claire Lawton
Pane Bianco offers both take-out and more formal, sit-down dining options.
Last week, we told you about Phoenix resident Jeffrey Peterson, who took to social media with a claim that he had been asked to leave Pane Bianco for speaking Spanish. The restaurant, which has been open since 2004, is one of several in town owned by James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Bianco.

On Friday, Bianco responded to the allegation saying he was "horrified" by the incident. Today, both Peterson and Bianco have more to say to Chow Bella -- though the chef says he and Peterson still have not spoken directly to each other.

See also: Chris Bianco Responds to Claim that Customer Was Kicked Out of Pane Bianco for Speaking Spanish

In an e-mailed statement to Chow Bella, Peterson defends the claim that he was kicked out of the restaurant for talking on the phone in Spanish. He tells Chow Bella he was asked to leave "shortly after buying [his] food and sitting down" in a nearly empty dining room on Thursday afternoon.

Here's Peterson's statement:

Seems quite a few have interpreted my report out of context. You will notice that in the FB post last week, I pointed to a staff member at the restaurant, no one else. I never suggested it was anything other than a problematic staff member. I have lived in Phoenix for many years, and we all know what the Bianco restaurants are, and that's why we love them so much. It was the first time in my life I have been thrown out of a restaurant, and to say it was offensive is an understatement. Never in a million years would I have expected it to happen that way, at that place. I spoke to Seth, the manager, by phone who said the rude employee who asked me to leave is a native Spanish speaker, which makes the situation even harder to understand. Maybe I am at fault for misunderstanding something the worker said to me, but I don't think so. It was an exchange that happened quickly. He looked very angry. I clearly heard him say the words "speak English" and "policy" and he clearly asked me to leave. I have no doubt that it is not the normal business policy of the business or Chris Bianco to ask people to leave their restaurants. However, I saw and experienced firsthand a worker at Pane who was rude, angry, and offensive; not at all a nice person and if my report was indeed made in bad faith as some have suggested, (it was not) Bianco has still not said a thing to explain why I was thrown out. All I was doing was talking on my phone, it was a quiet afternoon, the place was empty; there was literally only one or two other people in the dining room. Trust me, if this had happened to you, if you had actually been asked to leave a restaurant shortly after buying your food and sitting down, you would have been equally as offended and would seriously consider posting a status update that said you were annoyed, also. I asked Seth if he had ever been asked to leave a restaurant or if that specific employee had ever asked others to leave and he said he "wasn't going to have that conversation." I hope someone has a video of the dining room that afternoon so the owners themselves can see for themselves: there is a someone working for them at Pane who is not at all a nice or respectful person. I'm sorry if that report is hard for some to believe or if I am at fault for anything and I understand everyone loves Chris Bianco and rightfully so, I love his food too and that's why I was there..and unfortunately, everything I have written here about the staff member at Pane is true.

In response to the statement, Bianco had this to say:

I have just read Mr. Peterson's response it was well-written, calm, and even constructive . . . I wish I or the manager on duty could been informed in the same manner the mgr on duty could have confronted the server of the allegation, and also on the spot confirm that Spanish or any language is welcome here instead of carrying a misunderstanding with him and causing me and my business to be defending a racist claim.

Mr. Peterson's attorney Ashley has had my personal cell phone number since Thursday afternoon when I had a lengthy conversation with her, which did include an apology to Mr. Peterson for any misunderstanding that made him feel unwelcome in my restaurant and an assurance that this was not a policy and I would continue to look into it. As my GM Seth showed by speaking with 3 people on his behalf about this hours after it happened, including Mr. Peterson, we take the statement that we have a "racist staff member" who "informed me that the dining room is for English speakers only" extremely seriously.

Mr. Peterson is correct when he suggests that he may have misunderstood the situation. We would not, did not and do not discriminate.

Since I began in 1988, I have dealt with misinterpretations, misunderstandings and even mistreating by both customers and employees. These things can happen when communication breaks down. My approach as always has been to meet these issues head on with accountability, gathering all the information from all sides and then acting accordingly.

In closing, I am sorry and apologetic for Mr. Peterson having had a negative experience that left him to feel unwelcome.

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Location Info

Pane Bianco

4404 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant


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82 comments
Paul Ollarsaba
Paul Ollarsaba

i am in the latter yrs of my life, and I enjoy eating out more and more . but I will not go near any place that for any reason or miss understanding mite tell someone to leave or get out of their place of business . I have been lots of places and I find most business are more than happy to have any money coming in to their business . but once you start telling someone to get out for any reason , well I think you don't want any business from any one.

Lauren MacKay-Meszaros
Lauren MacKay-Meszaros

That was a pseudo apology. He should have hired someone to help him with that, it was horrible. And we don't refer to opposing attorneys by their first names dude, that was weird and unprofessional. Was any action taken on the employee? This guy sucks.

Nadine Mathenia
Nadine Mathenia

Sounds odd to me when the first response should have been to ask for the managers instead of hiring a lawyer..........very off and honestly riding on the whole racial train- then figuring the server was a native Spanish speaker = changing the tune ....sounds like someone is out for cash.

Laura Ory
Laura Ory

My best guess it that they probably didn't want him sitting in the dining room (for dine-in guests only) because he ordered from the take out side and maybe he misheard the guy. He did say he was on his cell phone at the time so maybe he just didn't hear him right.

naoma
naoma

I met Mr. Bianco years and years ago at EURO MARKET.  I cannot believe the above story.  I chatted with him as he was making pizzas at the back of the store.  He told me he would someday have his own pizza parlor.  And, he does have several.  He was always charming and informative and I had many talks with him about Pizza.  This story sounds quite UNTRUE.

Fer Sepulveda
Fer Sepulveda

In hate racist Mexicans that hate Spanish speaking "gringos" on a Japanese phone at an Italian restaurant with Mexican cooks, Asian and African American servers and European managers. I just hate that !!!!

FaithfulDem
FaithfulDem

I have a feeling Jeffrey may be a liar.

Merry Colin Brunen
Merry Colin Brunen

BS...IF he got tossed it was because he was rude using a cell in a restaurant. Attorney my eye--no response necessary from owner and this doesn't even deserve the press. All bunk.

RobertGraham29
RobertGraham29

Have you seem to have forgotten that our official language is ENGLISH? What part about that don't you not understand?

Ali Gomez
Ali Gomez

I can't make a judgment(as many of you obviously have) without knowing what the "misunderstanding" was... I'm still waiting...but won't loose sleep over it.

Joan Parker
Joan Parker

R u talking about pane blanco? At the clarendon?

Stacey Caputo
Stacey Caputo

Why do you go to a restaurant and talk on your cell? Busy or not ..rude

Lucia Perry
Lucia Perry

They must have disliked his being on the phone, talking loudly. I can understand your Spanish cussing, Rude Ones.

Jukes
Jukes

I've had perfectly lovely experiences at other Bianco establishments.  But I went to Pane Bianco for the first time in April in the middle of the day and left without eating.  The service was curt and delivered with extreme attitude.

I took the smallest table, sat down, and was immediately asked for my order.  I said I had never been there before and asked if I could have time to read the menu and in the meantime I asked for iced tea.  He brought the tea and wanted to take my order again.  I asked some questions about the menu.  Many items on it (all the things I was considering ordering) were "sold out" (at 3 p.m., how was I supposed to know?)  I was told about which things were left (which was not much variety).  All had some bizarre ingredient that seemed to be added at random just to make the dish seem "different" or "creative."  When I asked if I could have the X without the X the waiter started with the attitude that made me feel as if I was just not sophisticated to eat in this warehouse with the mismatched everything (hasn't that decor been done to death?)  

I paid for my tea and left.  To his credit, the waiter did say the tea "was on the house" when he realized I was leaving, but I left the money on the table nevertheless.  

This won't stop me from dining at other Bianco restaurants.  Their pane and pizza is superb.  But it does suggest to me that something is amiss at Pane Bianco, at least at non-dining times when they should be least busy.  They don't want people talking on cellphones there?  The patrons are all already yelling because the place is almost all concrete and very noisy.  The day I was there, some people had brought their dogs.  Doesn't exactly send the message that they demand Victorian behavior from the customers. 

Ryan Abbott
Ryan Abbott

This is BS, if I were Bianco I wouldn't even respond. I bet this never even happened. Next thing you know- I bet this guy, who built the site QuePasa will be on TV promoting something Spanish language, and he's using Bianco as a free advert.

Nufsaid
Nufsaid

Any protesters setting up shop by the restaurant yet? If so, the restaurant should run some curbside service special selling sandwiches with sides of circus peanuts. New Times staff could come, bring a T-shirt cannon, and fire "Viva Chow Bella!" tees into the crowd.

newton_anwar
newton_anwar

What I've heard from reliable sources is that he ordered take-out and then proceeded to sit down at a table and eat. He was asked to leave and now he's being a stupid jerk about it. Screw this guy for eternity. Privileged moron.

Nancy Buelna-Nieva
Nancy Buelna-Nieva

This is just ridiculous !! I don't believe in mr Peterson !!! Pane Bianco it's a good restaurant ! And I use to speak Spanish with my friend every time that we used to go there and never has any problem with it !

Robert Liccardo
Robert Liccardo

Nah, I don't think so. Looks like he's CEO of a multi-national company. Sounds like he's just an egomaniac loser.

Alvin Bitsue
Alvin Bitsue

The good ol' New Times trying to re-stir up this situation. Most of you haven't realized the original Facebook post by the accuser has been deleted and/or removed.

Hock
Hock

I suppose this is off topic but I would like restaurants to have no phone/camera policies regardless of the language being spoken.


Why is it acceptable to speak on a phone loud enough for others to hear without excusing yourself from the area?  In my mind it's not acceptable, but in others it certainly appears to be accepted.


For some reason it particularly annoys me in airports.  You chose to sit next to me in the terminal, please be polite.

David Quijano
David Quijano

Lol...have to say...read the story and couldn't be less interested.

Hr Hamada
Hr Hamada

I'm a very visible minority. The Bianco family has always been kind and wonderful to me. I believe this is just another way to make some $$$ just like many other false claims we've seen.

JimmyT
JimmyT

My thought, not that anyone asked, and given that the server was supposedly a native Spanish speaker, is that Mr. Peterson was using improper language assuming nobody around him spoke Spanish. It was probably the content of the conversation, not the language that got him thrown out, if he was actually thrown out.  Since Peterson only remembers the words "speak English" and "policy" I suspect that what he was told was that the policy would be to ask anybody who used the language he did while speaking English would be asked to leave as well.

royalphoenix
royalphoenix

I have never been in a Bianco's  eatery, but public cell phone usage in restaurants, grocery stores, etc. has gotten to be out of hand. peace

wtf....
wtf....

not taking any sides but Bianco's response doesn't say his side of the story only claims a misunderstanding but not saying much which to me sounds like he's accepting this incident really happened..????



Joshua Leon
Joshua Leon

I corrected that Lori Noonan. Thanks for noticing. I was referring to Bianco.

Mary Ann S
Mary Ann S

Peterson, who it seems after reading the article, did NOT speak with a manager at the time of the incident, but had his ATTORNEY contact the restaurant....looks like he's fishing for something like a "SETTLE OUT OF COURT for $$$$" to me - someone looking for a cash out payment or trying to put a black mark on this restaurant. I am with the other person who posted.... DO NOT TALK ON YOUR CELL PHONE in a restaurant! If you MUST take a call, step outside. If alone, tell the staff that you will be right back! I, for one, am SICK AND TIRED of hearing people's conversations while out and about. We have become a sue happy, self centerted society. NO ONE wants to hear your business! AND.... so many people speak very loudly on their cell phones without even realizing it.

Jim Sanchez
Jim Sanchez

We live in the land of unlimited grevance

Larry Gulliford
Larry Gulliford

Here's a thought, don't talk on your phone in a restaurant during dinner service, no matter how "empty" the place is, it's just plain rude, not just to other diners but to the staff, I bet he also has no problem talking on the phone while he checks out at the grocery store, which is also very rude.

Rheanna Schmidt
Rheanna Schmidt

Mr.Peterson had to get an attorney! ? Really. This claim is BS. I'll still be going to the restaurant.

Dsnooks Mcmoney
Dsnooks Mcmoney

Obviously it was the cell phone usage. Loud phone chatter in any language is rude, regardless of how many other people were in the restaurant.

Nufsaid
Nufsaid

As I said before, it's time to cool off this coverage. As evidenced by the Tim Fitchner comment below, the inciters are starting to come into this conversation. Let Bianco and Peterson put this one to bed before you wake up a bunch of idiots who'll try to turn this thing into a Phoenix foodie Ferguson.

Illa Harris-Kallish
Illa Harris-Kallish

Just think, this could all have been avoided if people would just stay off their cell phones while dining in restaurants.

Adrian P. Fontes
Adrian P. Fontes

Bianco is a solid chef and a stand-up guy. The claim is bullshit. If he didn't already have good lawyers I'd offer to sue on Bianco's behalf.

Mark Mayfield
Mark Mayfield

Still not believing this, but enough already...

rtbarry
rtbarry

So any random doosh can behave any way they want, anywhere, but they can never be kicked out?


No thanks. I wouldn't dine somewhere that tolerated dooshbags like that.

Add to that... were you there? Can you corroborate this random fable about a white guy getting kicked out of a restaurant for speaking Spanish? Kicked out by a Hispanic staffer! That's racism?? LOL

rtbarry
rtbarry

What apology? That wasn't an apology. It was a reaction to a non-incident that got turned into an incident on social media. What "action" should be taken against an employee after some random blowhard makes a ridiculous claim of racism? Let's examine the claim... a white guy says he got kicked out of a restaurant by a Spanish-speaking staffer for... speaking Spanish?! And then the claimant pulls the race card and immediately lawyers up before even escalating at the establishment? What kind of triple-secret reverse racism nonsense is this? Would you not ask to speak to a manager after something like that?

I found this little bit of Peterson's statement particularly revealing (and silly):

"He looked very angry. I clearly heard him say the words "speak English" and "policy" and he clearly asked me to leave."

LOL

Frankly, I don't think Bianco should have to apologize and I don't read his response as an apology. But anyone in hospitality knows their stellar reputation (even when hard-earned over decades) is constantly at risk. All it takes is some goofball lawyering up and taking to social media with a ludicrous story to make a giant mess. So kudos to the Bianco team for taking the high road. But I wish they didn't have to suffer this nonsense.



terezib
terezib

@JoeArpaioFan so you are saying that it should be made illegal for someone to speak PRIVATELY to another person in another language? What if they had been speaking FRENCH? Would THAT be okay? How about Japanese? (I know you're a troll, just curious how you'll respond). 

naoma
naoma

I have chatted with Mr. Bianco many times (see my first post) and he is always charming and informative and I've never heard anyone saying anything BAD about him.  I do not believe the commenter above.  

whatamaroon
whatamaroon

@Hock nobody chose to sit next to you at the terminal. they merely sat down in an empty seat, as you did. get over yourself, you're not special.

Jukes
Jukes

 Nobody ever said Chris was a racist.  Your outrage is misplaced.

terezib
terezib

LOL, Tim Fitchner! Punctuation is your FRIEND! I'm not sure if you're asking for a good fuck while speaking their dirty language, or WHAT. LEARN TO WRITE IN ENGLISH.

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