"Black Olives Matter": Pun Puts Pizzeria in Politicized Pickle

Looking to get a laugh? Humor is a subjective thing, and your idea of a rib-tickler just might be a slap in someone else’s face. Paisano’s, an Italian restaurant in Albuquerque, learned that lesson the hard way last week.

Paisano’s owner Rick Camuglia simply wanted to advertise his restaurant’s fish special, a pan-seared Ahi tuna with a black olive tapenade relish. As Camuglia often does, he decided to tout the dish on his restaurant’s outdoor marquee, and he threw in a culturally relevant pun, too. “Black olives matter,” the sign read. “Try our tapenade.”

Paisano’s also posted a photo of the sign on its Facebook page, and the negative reaction came swiftly. In light of the “Black Lives Matter” movement and controversy over how that slogan has been commandeered by other groups (resulting in phrases like “Blue Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter”), many of the restaurant's followers were not amused. Some denounced the joke as “offensive,” “tacky and hideous” and “in very bad taste.” One woman called the sign “a hateful public display of what passes to you as humor.” National and regional media outlets, including the Washington Post, ABC affiliate KRQE and Eater.com, made haste to cover the controversy and fan the flames of outrage, even after Camuglia removed the sign and the Facebook post. “We didn’t think anybody would be offended by that,” Camuglia told KRQE. “It was not our intent to offend anybody.”

Countering all the negative publicity were supportive responses—and increased orders—from Paisano customers and people around the southwest. “People who get offended by this need to get a life,” one Facebook commenter wrote. A post by Paisano’s, dated July 15, said the store had been “inundated with positive, supportive phone calls from the community as well as overwhelmed with business” from existing and new customers. The post goes on to state, “I can’t count the number of customers’ orders who’ve included adding black olives to every dish ordered … so much so that we almost ran out and ordered more.”

Although quick to recognize the error and take down the sign, Camuglia also seemed to be a little defiant in his interview with KRQE. “I think if that offends some people—a statement about black olives—that somebody needs to re-evaluate their politically correct meter,” he said.

Watch KRQE's video and text coverage of the story here.