Food Truck Owners Defend 'Wandering Dago' Brand
ALBANY - Is "Wandering Dago" an offensive ethnic slur or a whimsical business name that is protected by commercial free speech rights?
Northern District Judge Mae D'Agostino suggested that the moniker may well represent both as she heard oral arguments Thursday about whether to grant a preliminary injunction to the operators of a food truck known by that name so they may sell their wares to the lunchtime crowd at the Empire State Plaza state office complex in Albany.
At one point, the Italian-American judge said, "Oh, it's offensive" and admitted she would find it "very, very offensive" if a passerby suddenly called her a "dago."
But she also asked attorneys if it is the place of either the state or of the courts to protect the public from seeing a name that some might find objectionable.
"What about leaving it up to the public to decide whether they want to eat from the truck?" D'Agostino asked.
She reserved judgment on the motion by the operators of the Wandering Dago, Andrea Loguidice and Brandon Snooks of Schenectady, to allow the Wandering Dago back into the Empire State Plaza for the remainder of the 2013 outdoor lunchtime sales season in Albany.
The business is represented by George Carpinello of Boies, Schiller & Flexner in Albany, another Italian-American, who said the future livelihood of Loguidice and Snooks depends on whether the good name of their business is restored.
Their suit, Wandering Dago v. New York State Office of General Services, 1:13-cv-01053 (See Complaint), contends that the Wandering Dago was improperly denied a license to sell at the Empire State Plaza by the Office of General Service in May and then expelled by the New York Racing Association in July from the Saratoga Race Course's annual seven-week thoroughbred meet.
"I think it's important to get a decision soon as to their constitutional rights," Carpinello told D'Agostino. "Censorship, even for one day, is unconstitutional."
Carpinello said in a recent interview he was not hired by the Wandering Dago operators because of his Italian heritage, but because of his experience in defeating regulatory actions where the state has sought to restrict allegedly offensive advertising.