Something’s Fishy At the Steakhouse

In 2005 Graziano Graziussi achieved his Masters degree from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. So began the Naples, Italy native’s love affair with New York City.

It may have ended this week.

A practicing lawyer with a dual degree in economics, the 43 year old Graziussi recently flew into town and dined with a friend at the upscale midtown steakhouse Smith & Wollensky.

At meal’s end (rib eye steak $54, side of hash browns $12.50, side of asparagus $14 (!) plus drinks for a total of $208), Graziano realized that he left his wallet in his hotel room.

Embarrassed, the well dressed, dapper attorney talked to the waiter and the restaurant’s general manager.

“I proposed to leave my iPhone with them as collateral, run back to the hotel and come back with my wallet within 15 minutes,” Graziussi told Home Cooking IPad Magazine. He even suggested they send a busboy with him if they didn’t trust him.

Instead the general manager called the cops.

“I thought the police would laugh at being called for this,” said Graziussi.

Uh, not quite. The cops handcuffed him and locked him up overnight in jail!

Most people thought the restaurant and cops handled this rather badly, to say the least. The blogosphere lit up with indignant comments: False arrest! Is it really a crime to forget your wallet? Boycott Smith & Wollensky! Sue the bastards!. The European press was similarly outraged.

After spending the night in The Tombs, Graziussi was brought before a judge, who quickly tossed the case out. Seems pretty cut and dried, right? Hey, we’ve all forgotten our wallets at some point in our lives.

And yet…

Ok, Graziussi says he forgot his wallet. But his friend also forgot his wallet and had no money or credit card? What are the odds? Why couldn’t his friend go back and retrieve the money while Graziussi stayed, or vice versa? Why wasn’t his friend also arrested?

I smell something funny here, and it’s not the asparagus.

Stay tuned.

Update, Saturday, 1-26, 3p.m.:

Smith and Wollensky and the NYPD have finally released statements, and they seem to shed quite a different light on Mr. Graziussi’s claims.

The restaurant’s statement: “We have been in business for 35 years and it our policy to maintain our guests’ privacy. We do not contact the police without significant cause.

More to the point, police commissioner Ray Kelly, defending the onslaught of attacks on his department regarding the incident, reports that the lawyer did have a wallet containing $118 but refused to hand it over. Graziussi claimed to speak no English, but a cop who responded to the scene spoke fluent Italian, translated and determined that the individual simply did not want to pay.

Who do you believe here? The fact that Graziussi has conducted numerous press interviews in English certainly casts doubt on his entire story.

So once again a valuable lesson, but this time not for the NYPD: Don’t be too quick on the trigger! Just because someone looks you in the eye and says something doesn’t mean it’s true– there are more sociopaths out there than ever.

Gosh, a lawyer trying a scam. Whoda thunk it?

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