Food by VICE

A Beloved Brooklyn Restaurant Is Hosting an NRA Fundraising Event, and Politicians Aren't Happy

Gargiulo's insists the event was planned since well before the Parkland massacre.

by Mayukh Sen
Feb 28 2018, 4:22pm

Photo via Gargiulo's Facebook

Gargiulo’s is an institution: The Italian eatery has been around for 101 years in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Coney Island, serving up platefuls of spaghettini sorrentina and zuppa di cozze.

This week, though, the neighborhood mainstay has found itself in the thick of a controversy thanks to its decision to host the second-annual raffle and auction event for the Brooklyn Friends of NRA, a fundraising group for the National Rifle Association.

The fundraiser, the New York Daily News reported on Monday evening, had been in the works for months, and it's currently slated to take place at 6 PM on April 12. Its proximity to this month’s brutal shooting in Parkland, Fla. enraged community members who’d long seen Gargiulo’s as a neighborhood bulwark that acted as a safe haven.

On Monday afternoon, a group of five politicians and policymakers—Council Member Mark Treyger, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Senator Diane Savino—issued a strongly-worded missive to the Brooklyn Friends of the NRA decrying Gargiulo’s for deigning to host the event at all.

“Bringing an event like this to Coney Island is an affront to all of the hard work that our community has done to address gun violence in our neighborhood,” the statement read in part. “We know that Gargiulo’s has always had the best interests of the Coney Island community at heart, which is why it is so disappointing that they are hosting the NRA, an organization that actively lobbies for concealed carry reciprocity.“

When reached via the phone on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Jeffries claimed that neither the restaurant nor the Friends of the NRA has responded to the group's statement.

“The NRA will peddle any lie and spread any mistruth to distract America from a simple fact: guns kill people,” a spokesperson for Stringer wrote MUNCHIES over email on Tuesday, resolute in his determination to have the event cancelled. “Let there be no doubt that this organization has blood on its hands. Now, after yet another tragic mass shooting, it wants to do a gun-giveaway in our backyard. We don’t think that should happen. It’s wrong.”

Treyger, James, and Savino’s press offices did not return immediate requests for comment from MUNCHIES on Tuesday regarding whether they have seen similar incidents in other restaurants across the country, particularly in the wake of the Parkland massacre.

Gargiulo’s, which hosted a fundraiser of this nature for the Brooklyn Friends of NRA last April without much in the way of blowback, did not respond to immediate request for comment from MUNCHIES on Tuesday. The restaurant's owner, Anthony Russo, told the Daily News that it is working "to address the issue" with the Brooklyn Friends of the NRA and clarifying that his “heart goes out to the [Parkland] victims’ families.”

The event itself, the marketing collateral of which misspells Gargiulo's as "Gargielo's,"on the Friends of NRA website, has ticket prices that range from $75 to $1,500. It’s unclear how long this year's event had been in the works. When reached for comment via email on Tuesday evening, the Friends of the NRA directed MUNCHIES to the NRA's Public Affairs Group, who declined to comment on the record.