‘Leave the mask, take the cannoli’: Italian restaurant erects anti-mask billboard

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ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — Cannoli are best served cold.

And an Italian restaurant in Southern California is making an offer to people who don’t like wearing masks that they can’t refuse: “Leave the mask, take the cannoli.”

Basilico’s Pasta e Vino in Huntington Beach, California, erected a billboard in the area Monday with a nod to character Pete Clemenza’s popular line from the movie “The Godfather": “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”

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The billboard echoes messaging that the restaurant has promoted on social media and on merchandise it has made for sale.

The clever saying undoubtedly has a message: Basilico’s leadership is not happy about mask mandates or coronavirus-related restrictions imposed in the state.

In fact, the restaurant stopped posting photos of food on its social media account months ago. Instead, it has focused on sharing more political messages.

Among posts bashing National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci and promoting its Make Restaurants Great Again campaign, Basilico’s has made a few things clear. The first is that the family-owned business ardently supports U.S. military and veterans as well as rights to American freedoms. The second is that the restaurant does not allow masks in the establishment.

The hashtags #NoMasksAllowed, #DefendAmericanFreedom and #DefendAmericanLiberty are the most popular ones used in more recent posts.

Basilico’s has stated across the internet that it’s “against Communist Chinese style mandates and shutdowns” and instead hopes to “raise awareness and support for local and regional, independently-owned, small family-owned restaurants across the U.S. during the shutdown of 2020 and beyond.”

The restaurant said this group is “ultimately most at risk of not recovering and disappearing forever due to overreaching mandates imposed on small businesses everywhere.”

According to KTLA, Basilico’s billboard was revealed amid ongoing appeals from officials in Orange County advocating for loosened restrictions related to restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Tuesday, California government officials listed Orange County has having “substantial” risk for the spread of COVID-19. Under county guidelines, restaurants can open indoors with modifications and at 25% maximum capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.

The California Department of Public Health’s most recent data showed a 3.1% positivity rate of COVID-19 tests in Orange County.