You know what doesn't go well with a braised veal shank slowly cooked in Italian herbs and Barolo wine? Apparently, a toddler watching an iPad with the volume on high or babies crying. Why cant they just sit quietly and eat their spaghetti caprese with baby shrimp and buffalo mozzarella in a light Roma tomato sauce? Jeez.
Oh, yeah, because they're children. And sometimes, that's just what children do. They cry and get distracted and placated by screens. For the last few years, the debate of whether kids should even be allowed into upscale restaurants has gotten heated.
Caruso's joins a small but growing list of restaurants around the world turning away or discouraging kids from dining in their upscale establishments.
For the Italian restaurant in Mooresville, N.C., the last straw was, indeed, a little girl using an iPad with the volume on high. Her parents refused to turn down the device after repeated requests from the staff.
"Finally, we had to ask them to leave," Yoshi Nunez, the restaurant's manager, told The Washington Post. "They were upset, but they didn’t seem to care about what the other guests thought. We tried to be nice about the situation, but we’re here to take care of customers and we can’t tell a parent how to control their kids."
So then starting in January, Caruso's decided on having a strict ban on children under the age of 5.
And wow, were there passionate words from both sides.
“We actually got up and left because the waitresses were very rude,” Whitney Labozzetta, a mom of six, told WSOCTV. “When my daughter, who is one, cried, they gave us the nasty look.”
“Also, a family of five requires a lot more attention from the wait staff (since they’re ordering so much … even though we tip extremely well because we know we are a bit of a challenge) and you as an owner can’t possibly want too many big parties, big checks and big tips coming in,” a reviewer wrote sarcastically on the restaurant's Facebook page. “What a nightmare.”
Another writes, "How you are legally allowed to discriminate amazes me! Next you will be kicking out all the elderly because they take too long to eat. Slippery slope!"
But supporters also poured in worldwide and applauded Caruso's for "taking a stand." Facebook and Yelp reviewers said they made a point to go to Caruso's after hearing about the controversial policy. Many even left positive five-star reviews for the restaurant, though they've never dined there, just to add their two cents.
"So nice to hear a restaurant taking a stand against bratty spoiled kids and their irresponsible parents. Noisy kids are the last thing I want to hear or see when eating out for a special occasion," writes a Facebook reviewer.
"First off, don't bring little ones to a nice restaurant and expect them to quietly sit still for an hour. They CAN'T DO IT. If we ever went out to eat with the children and someone started crying, we left. It's the only responsible thing to do. That being said, when we DID get the chance to go to a nice restaurant, we always got a babysitter. It would be embarrassing to have my child ruin someone else's special night out or to have someone else's child ruin the atmosphere of my lovely, QUIET dining experience," wrote a mom of five.
"Just heard about the no-children policy at this establishment. We will definitely come here for a fancy date night!"
The restaurant's owner Pasquale Caruso told the Mooresville Tribune he was starting to lose money and customers because there were very young children "coming in, throwing food, running around and screaming. ... It started to feel like it wasn’t Caruso’s anymore, that it was a local pizzeria instead."
"I have two children myself, so as a father, that’s not why I put the ban in place," he said. "I try to please everyone, and create a nice atmosphere, keeping the restaurant elegant. I want it to be a place where couples and friends can have a nice evening out."
Since instituting the ban, Caruso's has seen a spike in reservations. They went from having about 50 diners per day to around 80. Seems like the bottom line spoke loudest of all.