Who Ya Gonna Call? Ghosts Keep Guests at Safe Social Distance

Ghosts love pizza, too, which might explain why the dining room at Trattoria Pizzeria Da Luigi appears to be haunted. Or maybe it’s just a frighteningly clever marketing ploy devised by owner Luigi Cutraro’s wife?

Cutraro reopened his eatery in Royal Oak, Michigan, recently after three months in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Required to limit dine-in seating capacity to 50 percent and to enforce social distancing between tables, Teresa Cutraro hit upon a spooky solution: Every other table in the restaurant is occupied by spectral seat-fillers to make sure no one tries to sit there.

“I wanted to come up with something fun and meaningful because of everything going on and keep the six-foot distance,” Cutraro told the Detroit Free Press. “I also didn’t want to use mannequins.”

He could have simply removed half of the tables, but he felt that would make his dining room look “desolate.” Instead, he opted for a mix of guest seating and ghost seating to enforce social-distancing requirements.

“Our aim is to go above and beyond to keep our diners safe,” Cutraro said in the Free Press interview. “But we wanted to do it in a way that was really playful, so they can relax and enjoy their dining experience.”

The “ghosts” consist of white sheets wrapped around the chairs and broomsticks with balls for heads. Every ghost has a face, including eyes and a mouth, and some sport mustaches or wear sunglasses. Cutraro has also introduced food specials that only a ghost could love, such as the Calamari alla Casper and Braised Short Ribs alla Beetlejuice.

The ploy has earned widespread coverage for Trattoria Pizzeria Da Luigi from both the Free Press and Detroit-area TV stations.

In an interview with Fox2 Detroit, the gregarious Cutraro said the three-month shutdown was difficult for him, and he was excited to reopen this month. “I felt like when you see those movies of people in the desert and they see an oasis, they see water … that’s how I felt. I felt beautiful, because we do need contact with people.”

Cutraro’s son, Luca, said the restaurant’s ghost seating “gives it that feel that you’re not alone. Whether it’s a ghost or whatever else, someone’s there with you. It gives a little bit of lightness to the situation.”