A billboard reading: "Leave the Mask Take the Cannoli," a puppet master illustration from the film "The Godfather" and Basilico's Pasta e Vino's restaurant information.
A billboard advertising Basilico's Pasta e Vino, an Italian restaurant in Orange County. Source: KTLA.

Orange County Italian Restaurant Takes Anti-Mask, Pro-Cannoli Stance

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One Italian restaurant in Orange County has taken a stand against masks. For weeks, Basilico’s Pasta e Vino’s campaign has raged at its Huntington Beach location and on social media, but now, KTLA reports a new billboard has emerged in L.A. It reads, “Leave the Mask Take the Cannoli.”

The billboard stands atop a flower shop near the Beverly Center. The phrase is a twist on a line from “The Godfather.” Two Mafia men shoot and kill another in a car. One of them tells the other, “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” Cannoli is, of course, an Italian dessert. It is quite tasty. This appears to be a rehash of a former, pre-pandemic Basilico’s sign directed at a nearby Starbucks: “Leave the Cake Pop Take the Cannoli.”

A glance at the restaurant’s Instagram profile makes its stance on masks and mobster movies clear. The latter seems to be a motif here. A recent video pays homage to a shot of the Copacabana nightclub in “Goodfellas.” Similarly, it’s set to The Crystals’ 1963 hit, “And Then He Kissed Me.”

Other posts feature a Gadsden flag — that’s the “Don’t Tread on Me” one — hung outside its doors, an illustration of the Bill of Rights and a variety of anti-mask posts with hashtags such as #nomasksallowed and #DefendAmericanLiberty. In fact, these types of posts far outnumber anything relating in any way to food. It kind of looks like the Facebook page of your former high school classmate or second cousin — you know the one — if they knew how to make a solid chicken parm. There’s even a post advertising the Cannoli phrase on T-shirts, which you may buy at the restaurant for $25. Proceeds benefit Patriots and Paws.

Basilico’s Yelp page is under review “for content related to media reports,” according to a notice at the top of the page. Here lies the argument of our COVID times: the freedom-loving anti-maskers versus the science-abiding maskers. There are the positive reviews, thanking the restaurant for “standing up for human rights, the end of the tyrannical Newssolini regime, the end of misinformation, and the end of government oppression!” Then there are the negative reviews, which say things like, “More assholes who think they’re above everyone else and who don’t give a damn about anyone’s health or lives.” For some, the restaurant stands as a bastion of liberty against wearing a mask during a pandemic, while others vow to never eat there again.

We emailed the restaurant for clarification on its mask policy, at least more so than this Instagram post that features an illustration of someone wearing a mask with a line through it. We have yet to receive a response, but according to the Orange County Register, the owners released a statement through social media on June 27, stating, “[I]f you enter the restaurant for dine in, and want to wear a mask, you must remove it when sitting down. If you are standing around inside and waiting for a table, or waiting inside to pick up food for yourself or as a third party delivery driver, and you are wearing a mask, you will be asked to wait outside.” It’s not clear what the restaurant requires of its staff.

But is it up to the restaurant? Orange County is currently in the state’s “substantial” reopening tier, meaning restaurants may open for indoor service at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer, with modifications. Those modifications would include mask protocols, and the guidance is clear. Face coverings must be worn by staff when interacting with members of the public or working in any space the public may visit, and by customers when they’re not seated and actively eating or drinking. This is true for outdoor dining, indoor dining and restaurants, wineries and bars.

According to Christine Lane, environmental health director at the Orange County Health Care Agency, Basilico’s anti-mask stance puts it at odds with state regulations and may land the restaurant in hot water.

“Despite Environmental Health providing education to the food facility on several occasions, it remains out of compliance with the state’s requirements in the Health Order and with the dine-in guidance,” Lane said in an email. “The matter has been referred to the state’s Task Force for enforcement.”

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