Letters from the Issue of , 2002

Italian food, paid mercenaries, and crackhead Santas

If You Knew Italy Like I Know Italy

You probably wouldn't have been quite so insulting: I am the owner of Tinello Cucina Italiana and I'm writing regarding the recent review of my restaurant by Lee Klein ("Low Prices, Low Prospects," February 3). I believe everyone is entitled to his opinion, but I am very disappointed to find that someone is nasty, angry, and incompetent.

As a native Italian, I know my country's cuisine is varied from north to south, and even from town to town in the same region. I don't know which "real" Italian cuisine Mr. Klein is accustomed to, but it's not always "lush." To the contrary, most Italian cuisine is very simple. Perhaps Mr. Klein is used to what is commonly known as American-Italian cuisine, with a lot of spices and overuse of garlic. There is nothing wrong with American-Italian cuisine, but it is certainly not authentic Italian.

Mr. Klein mentioned something to the effect that we are "dyslexic" because we call something rotolini di zucchine when it should be zucchini rolatini. These are two very different dishes. Perhaps Mr. Klein should check with the restaurant prior to printing something so insulting -- not to mention that our hours of operation were incorrect as well.

I do not and have never served canned peppers. Mr. Klein refers to the "disappointingly powdered" parmigiano. We grate our parmigiano cheese very finely as opposed to shredding it like many restaurants in a hurry do (they can put it quickly into a food processor). We do this, as we do so many things at Tinello, by hand.

I work very hard to bring the best food from my hometown of Capri. I am running a very humble place and I don't know what is wrong with that. But Mr. Klein seems to find many things wrong with what he refers to as a "budget Italian restaurant." Perhaps he should stick with reviewing the high-end restaurants and permit someone who actually likes Italian cuisine and moderately priced restaurants to review them.

Massimo Celentano

Miami Beach

Editor's note: A Tinello employee provided the erroneous hours of operation. Here are the correct hours: Open for lunch and dinner Monday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

When You Mix Public Interest and Self Interest

You get conflict of interest -- better known as Seth Gordon: Seth Gordon's most recent letter to the editor (February 3) begs this question: Is he a paid mercenary or a free-spirited community activist? In reality Gordon is a well-paid lobbyist inappropriately representing Home Depot before the City of Miami's zoning department while at the same time wearing the mantle of president of the Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce. This certainly creates the impression among those he lobbies on behalf of Home Depot that he speaks for the chamber, despite the chamber's unanimous opposition to Home Depot locating in the middle of Coconut Grove.

Gordon has an irreconcilable conflict of interest in representing Home Depot while acting as president of the chamber. His spin that there is no impropriety fails to address the appearance of impropriety. Exclaiming for all to hear that he recused himself from the final vote, Gordon adroitly omits his private attempts to influence and derail the chamber's vote.

The second week in December, the chamber was scheduled to vote on whether to oppose big-box retailers like Home Depot. Gordon insisted the board not take any position but rather reserve itself to act as a mediator later on, thus discouraging the vote.

He was once again successful in delaying the vote at a subsequent meeting. However, what has been kept from the public is that Gordon threatened to quit as president if the board voted, fully understanding the vote would be overwhelmingly opposed to Home Depot.

Gordon failed to notify the board that he had been retained in the past by Home Depot, nor did he disclose that he was in the middle of negotiations with Home Depot to promote its interests before the city and its commission. More important, Gordon did not reveal at the appropriate time that he had secured a reported six-figure contract from Home Depot. When a board member pressed Gordon in writing to disclose whether he was presently retained by Home Depot, he never responded and instead chastised the board member for asking the question.

Gordon must have been in full spin mode when he wrote to New Times: "...Because I didn't drink the anti-Home Depot Kool-Aid and follow the torch-bearing villagers up the hill, there is something wrong with the way I conduct my volunteer community activities?"

Of course I am one of those villagers carrying a torch, although I don't remember drinking any Kool-Aid. The torch is Coconut Grove comes first, before a grotesque, industrially designed warehouse. Our community cannot withstand 3500 to 5000 additional vehicles on Bird Road and McDonald Street each day. A village is not suited to harbor an industrial facility containing a petrochemical mix that, if ignited, could obliterate three city blocks.

Home Depot does not belong in this village, whether the City of Miami sees this is yet to be determined. But Seth Gordon will help steer the city, making sure his client succeeds, as that is what Gordon & Reyes does. That is his right as a free citizen. It is not, however, his right to simultaneously serve as president of the Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce and lobby against its interest, or to claim that he acts as "community volunteer" while Home Depot compensates him for advocating their interests.

Marc David Sarnoff

Coconut Grove

To Santa and His Crackhead Cronies

We'll nab you and we'll arrest you as often as possible: I read with interest and amusement Francisco Alvarado's article about the trials and tribulations of "Santa Claus" (a.k.a. Anthony Gregory) as he made his way through everyday life in the big city ("Crack Kills," January 27). This letter is addressed to all the "Santas," reindeer, and elves who think there is some sort of glamour in popping a glass stem into their mouths and sucking the hell out of a crack rock.

First I'd like to clarify something "Santa" spewed during his tirade against undercover cops. As the tactical commander for the Miami Police Department's crime suppression unit, I was pleased to hear that "Santa" had walked right by one of my undercover cops in some dope hole and was amazed later when he found out that the "scrawny" guy who said "Wassup" to him was actually a cop. That is our job -- to blend in with the law-breaking dregs and gather enough probable cause to make an arrest.

In the world of narcotics supply and demand, much like prostitution, it is probably most effective to shut down the dealers. But in order to be truly successful, you must also attack the demand side by doing reverse drug stings and "john" stings. If the buyers and johns fear that a certain area is a haven for police undercover details, then perhaps they may move to the next dope hole. Sometimes we will watch John Doe sell dope to numerous people. We stop the buyers on their way out of the area. Most of them still have the narcotics in their hands. A few, like "Santa," will swallow the evidence. Once the buyers are arrested and evidence recovered, we blitz the drug hole and gather up the seller and his lookouts -- a one-two punch. The area simmers down then starts up again hours or days later.

We must continue our assault on these areas with regularity in an effort to keep drug-related violence to a minimum. If these drug holes go unchecked, sooner or later territorial gun fights will erupt. It is my job to ensure this does not happen.

Every time we hit a dope hole and successfully remove the seller and his clientele, burglary and theft reports go down in that area. Where do you think "Santa" and his cronies get their money to support their habits? It ain't coming from hitting the daily double at Calder!

My message to "Santa" is this: The Miami Police Department's crime suppression unit will determine who's been naughty and who's been nice. If "Santa" is seen buying drugs in areas we're watching, he will be arrested.

David Magnusson

Hialeah

Santa's Weird World

It's all the more strange because he seems to be decent: The article "Crack Kills" touched me for several reasons. As the product of a stable, middle-class family, I squirmed at the description of "Santa's" alien lifestyle. Even though I spent 40 years dodging the homeless around UM's medical school, I never got used to seeing the poverty, disease, and deprivation.

I can swear with the best of them (and often do), but this article was so raw because Alvarado frequently used street talk. I could not mentally avoid the scene because it was in my face. The only alternative was to stop reading, but I was hooked on the story with a voyeur's curiosity.

Most disturbing was the fact that "Santa" seems like a decent, caring guy who somehow got lost. That really bothered me. It is such a waste because there are rotten people doing much better. I can only hope that he is happy and his life is the result of his own choice, but I fear "Santa" is the victim of addiction and floats wherever it takes him. Addiction ruins too many people.

Dr. Patricia Wade

Miami

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