Somehow, it has been less than a week since President Donald Trump reportedly categorised Haiti, El Salvador, and several African nations as “shithole countries” during a meeting in the Oval Office. In the past six days, we have all aged at least 15 years as we endured rightful outrage, righteous indignation, and an unending stack of thinkpieces about the President’s seemingly undiminished ability to make racist, tone-deaf comments. And one Maryland pizza restaurant has already responded to the controversy by reprinting its menus with a “shithole”-related history lesson.
Hersh’s, a family-owned pizza joint in South Baltimore, added two text boxes to the top of its most recent menu, on both sides of its silhouetted logo. “The US once considered Italian immigrants to be from a shithole country,” it says. “Glad that’s changed, or we’d live in a culinary wasteland of well-done steak & ketchup.” (Ooh, double burn!).
“My brother and I own the restaurant and were kind of offended—not kind of—were really offended,” co-owner Stephanie Hershkovitz told the Baltimore Sun. So she printed new menus, which had been placed on the tables at Hersh’s by Sunday.
Hershkovitz’ historical observations are correct: In 1911, the United States Immigration Commission wrote “Certain kinds of criminality are inherent in the Italian race. In the popular mind, crimes of personal violence, robbery, blackmail and extortion are peculiar to the people of Italy.” Thirteen years later, the Immigration Act of 1924 created a “national origins quota” and prevented many Italians from emigrating to the United States. Years of discrimination followed (although Calvin Coolidge presumably refrained from using the word ‘shithole’).
Hershkovitz told the Sun that the response to the menus has been positive so far. “They think it’s hilarious,” she said of her customers.
The Cress restaurant in Deland, Florida has to be hoping for a similarly supportive response to its own Trump-inspired event; according to Orlando Weekly, in March, Cress will host “$H!THOLE: Celebrating Food & Culture of Shithole Countries,” a night highlighting the food from those countries denigrated by the President.
“As we stand in solidarity with the people, culture, and food from Haiti, El Salvador, and the continent of Africa.], we are proud to showcase a family-style meal inspired by these regions,” Cress wrote on Facebook. “A portion of the proceeds will benefit an appropriate cause that aligns with the theme of the event.”
MUNCHIES has reached out to Hersh’s for further information and comment but has not yet received a response. As long as no restaurants step up to host Well Done Steak and Ketchup night, we’ll be OK.