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Business partners and friends Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli and Alex Cassanova hold up their forearms where they have identical tattoos that translate from Italian to mean ‘Good, Clean & Fair,’ a philosophy they apply to the way they live their lives and how they run their restaurant business, Eating House. (Photo by Patricia Laylle / Miami Herald)
Business partners and friends Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli and Alex Cassanova hold up their forearms where they have identical tattoos that translate from Italian to mean ‘Good, Clean & Fair,’ a philosophy they apply to the way they live their lives and how they run their restaurant business, Eating House. (Photo by Patricia Laylle / Miami Herald)

Coral Gables restaurant to celebrate counterculture cannabis day with ‘stoner’ menu

According to urban legend, the code-term “420” was first used by a group of Northern California teenagers to note the time they were supposed to meet after school to smoke cannabis. Since then, “420” has become a part of the lexicon for cannabis smokers.

As a result, April 20 has become a day of celebration for the cannabis-consuming community. Every year, underground observances of this counterculture holiday take place across North America.

Now, for the third consecutive year, Eating House will be hosting its dinner event commemorating “4/20.” The Coral Gables eatery will offer customers a $42 fixed-price “munchies” menu, wine and beer specials priced at $4.20, as well as music and classic movies that celebrate cannabis culture. The event will run from 6 to 11 p.m.

By Daniel Hidalgo
South Florida News Service
Follow us on: @SFNS_News • Facebook • Instagram 

The special fixed price menu will feature Eating House’s own take on classic “stoner” fare, such as a “cold pizza” with stracciatella and charred tomatoes; a foie-t dog with Proper sausage, pear relish and mostarda; take-out style pork wings with cauliflower fried rice; short-rib quesadilla; and a poutine with sweet potato, pork belly and peanut jelly.

“We feel that we’re the kind of restaurant to do this kind of thing that’s a little off the grid,” said Giorgio Rapicavoli, one of Eating House’s co-owners and its head chef, who has been working professionally in the food industry since he was 14.

In 2011, Rapicavoli was approached by producers of Food Network’s reality-based competitive cooking show series, Chopped. After winning one of the show’s Season 10 episodes titled “Far Far Out,” he was invited back to participate in Chopped Ultimate Champions in 2014, where he lost in the show’s finale. He was the first chef from Miami to have won a competition on the show.

“It was fun. It’s always nice to get to cook, and I got the opportunity to represent the city,” said Rapicavoli, 29. “I used the money I won from Chopped to open the restaurant.”

Alexander Casanova, a partner at Eating House, and Rapicavoli became friends while working together at Chispa, a Coral Gables restaurant that has since closed. They roomed together, along with another friend, in an apartment on 71st Street and Collins Avenue for three years.

During the months between the taping of the Chopped episode and its airing on the Food Network, the two friends capitalized on Rapicavoli’s increased profile and decided to open Eating House.

Casanova said the restaurant was forced to open up with pop-up seating at first because of a lack of capital. The restaurant underwent a month of renovations before it was completed.

“You always have a fear about the business and that people are going to accept it, but at the same time, we had a high level of confidence,” said Casanova, 31. “I’ve been working in restaurants for 16 years and have worked every position. You talk to Giorgio about food for about five minutes and you know there’s something special there.”

Lourdes Sanchez, 50, has been going to Eating House regularly since they completed their renovations in 2013. She always sits on the corner stool of the bar that greets customers as soon as they walk in.

“Giorgio says I should have a little plaque made there,” said Sanchez, who does not smoke cannabis but has attended the restaurant’s 4/20 event every year since she started visiting it regularly. She found out about the meaning of 4/20 through her goddaughter, Annette, 33.

Sanchez describes her understanding of the event as “like a Pot Day” and the outfits that the restaurant staff wears during the event as “Marley gear.”

“I always have fun when I go to the restaurant because I love the kids, but the 4/20 events are so much fun because it’s just off the wall, and you see all different kinds of people,” said Sanchez. “It’s an experience for me — especially since I’m a little older now.”

Her brother, Justo Sanchez, is a Harvard graduate and cultural analyst, who is also a customer of Eating House. His Spanish-language blog, named Tinta y Veno, focuses on a variety of issues — including marijuana legalization in the United States. Until now, Sanchez did not know about the 4/20 event or its significance in the cannabis culture.

“Younger people can influence attitudes and legislators, but with a Republican culture in Florida’s legislature, and a Republican governor, the example of Colorado and other states will be ignored in Florida,” said Justo Sanchez, 52.

In the 2014 Florida midterm election, Amendment 2 put the proposition of legalizing marijuana consumption exclusively for medicinal purposes to a vote. The amendment was shot down after it received 57 of the 60 percent of votes needed to pass.

But Rapicavoli and Casanova both indicated that the restaurant does not have a political angle.

“We’re not really trying to push a [cannabis] agenda. At the end of the day, we’re doing it because it’s fun,” Casanova said. “When you try to push an agenda, people get turned off, as opposed to when you just participate, and make something fun, that opens more doors.”

Rapicavoli agrees and adds that the “4/20” event is not marketed at any particular group of people.

“All types of people come, from different age ranges. We get college kids, we get lawyers, we get parents, we get a little bit of everything,” said Rapicavoli, who had a Dec. 2011 misdemeanor arrest for possession of cannabis (a charge that was dropped when he completed a pre-trial diversion program). “Of course, I would like for [cannabis] to be legalized. There are a lot of people that are in jail right now for something that is really not that harmful and does a lot of good things for a lot of good people that are in a lot of pain.”

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MORE INFORMATION

▪ What: Eating House ‘4/20’ Dinner Event

▪ When: 6 to 11 p.m. Monday

▪ Where: 804 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables

▪ Cost: $42 per person / $4.20 drink specials

▪ For more information: Call the restaurant at 305-448-6524 or visit its website, http://eatinghousemiami.com

The dinner is fully booked, as is a 4:20 p.m. seating. Eating House is taking email requests for reservations if openings occur: eh420waitlist@gmail.com.

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