Local restaurant owner under fire for Facebook post comparing governor, health secretary to Nazis

BRADDOCK, Pa. — The owner of a Braddock restaurant is facing backlash after posting a promotional picture on social media, comparing Gov. Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine to Nazis.

Robert Portogallo is the owner of Portogallo Peppers N’At.

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On Wednesday, Portogallo posted the photo on Facebook, with Gov. Wolf’s face as well as Doctor Levine’s superimposed.

The photo was meant to promote Portogallo’s lunch special, which he named “The Gestapo Combo.”

Portogallo told Channel 11 that he didn’t mean to offend anyone.

But for Braddock’s mayor as well as members of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community, the apology isn’t enough.

“It is sad. It is heartbreaking. We welcomed him with open arms,” said Mayor Chardaé Jones.

It was brought to my attention that Portogallo Peppers N'AT posted yet another offensive post. As stated in the past...

Posted by Mayor Chardaé Jones on Thursday, August 13, 2020

Mayor Jones as well as other members of the Braddock community are frustrated, because Portogallo has posted controversial photos before aimed at Dr. Levine, who is transgender.

“It feels like some days he just wakes up and he decides to post these things, to figure out who he can offend today,” said Mayor Jones.

Portogallo said at the time that the picture was a joke, and apologized.

But his most recent post is getting more reaction, including from those of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.

“It is horrible. We know that it doesn’t represent Pittsburgh,” said Josh Sayles, who is the director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

Part of the federation’s mission is to help build stronger communities, while helping people understand the mistakes of the past.

“I think we need to continue to speak out when people say and do these types of hateful things,” said Sayles.

Sayles explained to Channel 11 that members of the Jewish and LGTBQ+ communities feel they have targets on their backs, and Portogallo’s post just adds fuel to the fire.

“We in Pittsburgh, especially in the Jewish community, particularly in Squirrel Hill, are all too familiar with the worst-case scenario when those things go unchecked,” said Sayles, referring to the terrorist attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in October of 2018.

“For the people of Braddock, we know this is not a representation of your community. And, we are so grateful to the mayor for speaking out against this type of hate.” said Sayles.

“We don’t need hate in this community,” said Mayor Jones.

On Saturday, Portogallo posted a public apology to the restaurant’s Facebook page:

As many of you know I had a post up briefly about Governor Wolf and Dr. Levine that depicted them both as Nazis. This...

Posted by Portogallo Peppers N'AT on Saturday, August 15, 2020