July 28, By Nathaly Pesantez
Ottomanelli & Sons, the famed West Village butcher shop, is bringing problems across the East River to another famed but unaffiliated butcher shop—Ottomanelli & Sons in Woodside.
The Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market on Bleecker Street was the site of a racial incident in April, when Joe Ottomanelli, a butcher and owner of the shop, handed Victor Sheppard, a black delivery man, a noose made from yellow rope, the New York Daily News reported.
Since then, the social media pages of the Bleecker Street meat shop have been hit with negative reviews—a method that has quickly gained traction over the years that allows people to collectively sabotage a business.
But a slew of negative reviews and comments have also hit the Facebook and Yelp pages of Ottomanelli & Sons Prime Meat Shop and Wild Game, the full name of the separate, independent Woodside Avenue butcher shop where the incident did not occur, but whose owner is Frank Ottomanelli, a cousin of Joe Ottomanelli.
“We haven’t really spoken about it,” Frank said. “But it should have never happened to start with.”
Although Frank and Joe are related by family, Frank says he and his cousin operate totally separate businesses.
“They run their shop, we run our shop—we’re both very busy.” Frank said. “But what happened there we have no control over.”
Frank first heard about the incident via the Daily News. Joe, according to the Daily News, claimed he gave the make-shift noose “as a joke” to Sheppard.
“I wish it never happened, I can tell you that,” Frank said.
On Facebook, “S.Ottomanelli & Sons Prime Meats”, the name for the Woodside shop, has amassed a 1.7 star rating since April, and a string of comments by people angered by the incident, some genuinely mixing up the two locations, others joining the two shops and damning Frank for his familial relationship to Joe.
“Racist owner thought it was funny to give his black delivery driver a rope tied in a noose,” one user wrote on the Yelp page for the Woodside butcher shop.
“I hope you file for bankruptcy and end up homeless,” another user’s review on Facebook reads. “You, you racists, are the scum of the earth!”
Frank has responded to most of these online reviews by trying to make it clear that he and his operation had nothing to do with incident.
“The offensive incident in question did not occur at Ottomanelli & Sons Prime Meat Shop & Wild Game in Woodside NY,” a portion of the Woodside shop’s response reads. “It happened at a meat market on Bleeker Street in Manhattan which is owned and operated by a different Ottomanelli.”
He added: “We remain committed to providing friendly and courteous service for all. While we regret the confusion, we appreciate the support of our customers, and concerned consumers, during this time.”
Some users who misidentified the shop where the April incident occurred apologized after reading Frank’s response.
“Well sorry about that,” the same Facebook user replied. “Maybe you guys should close this page until this is over and contact fb to see about getting the bad reviews taken off.”
But other users stood by their negative reviews, with one asking whether it’s a coincidence that both shops have the same last names or if there is a personal or business affiliation.
Frank, who runs the butcher shop on 60-05 Woodside Avenue and a restaurant specializing in burgers the next block over, says the negative comments that have hit the shop have mostly been online.
“Nothing really has happened with the shop,” he said. “No one has given us comments at the store level.”
Frank added that he just doesn’t want him and his shop to be subject to something they didn’t do.
Sheppard quit his job after the incident, and the Bleecker Street shop’s meat distributor cut ties with the shop, according to the Daily News.
Joe Ottomanelli turned himself into police early May, and was booked on one count of aggravated harassment in the second degree, according to the Daily News. An order of protection was also issued, barring Joe from making contact with Sheppard.
“We’re just not known for this,” Frank said. “It’s an isolated incident that should have never happened. We condemn it.”