When Nino Barbalace opened an Italian bakery in Dorchester, he named it to honor his greatest culinary influence, his aunt Gianna. The woman behind the name Zia Gianna, as described by the cafe’s website, was the “glue in the family.”
“As those who know her will attest, Zia had an innate ability to create community, comfort and love through food, and it is that community, that sense of warmth and nourishing others that Nino hopes to bring to his caffè Zia Gianna, a true tribute to The Zia,” the website reads.
As Boston 25 News reports, a customer left a scathing one-star review, calling attention to the rainbow flag Barbalace placed in Zia Gianna’s front window in commemoration of Pride Month.
“Well, that flag says all when you delve deeper and see the real customer base here, it’s clearly geared and catered ONLY to those who rally behind the rainbow flag.”
Restaurant owner Barbalace responded publicly on the cafe’s Facebook, reminding their customers and fans that “all are welcome.”
The Yelp review is no longer visible. It is unclear whether the author deleted it, or whether it was removed by Yelp for violating their terms of service. Yelp’s content guidelines state that they may remove reviews that “focus on elements outside of the reviewer’s experience with the business.” Yelp reviews prohibit hate speech.
Barbalace remains committed to demonstrating his support of the LGBT community, telling Fox that he won’t remove the flag. The “love always wins” sentiment shared on their Facebook page has drawn attention from local members of the LGBT community and allies. Tiffany Andrade, a customer who visited the cafe Friday to show support, had a message of support for Boston 25 News.
“Luckily we live in the land of the free and people are entitled to their own opinion, but I do think it’s something to understand that we are an open community and there are people who come from all different countries and all different backgrounds and we should be welcoming of everyone.”
This review, and Barbalace’s response, garnered national attention. New fans from across the country have taken to Facebook comments with promises to visit Zia Gianna.
Jeff Emmons of Windsor, Connecticut, writes, “I’ll be traveling to New England next month to visit family, after reading the article about your restaurant this evening, you’ll be one of my stops! Love conquers all!”
Zia Gianna has been serving baked goods, Italian coffee, and tiramisu in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston since 2017.