Food News

Phil Romano Sued by Eatzi's Employee Who Says He Groped Her Behind on Camera

An assistant general manager at Eatzi's on Oak Lawn is suing Dallas restaurateur Phil Romano for $1 million, claiming the restaurateur behind Fuddrucker's and Trinity Groves grabbed her ass at an April 7 manager meeting. Unfortunately for Romano, the plaintiff has some pretty damming evidence: a surveillance video that clearly shows a man, who attorneys say is Romano, reaching out and groping the employee while her back was turned. WFAA has a clip of the surveillance video: 
In the lawsuit, filed June 27 in Dallas County, attorney Ramez F. Shamieh says his client is suffering "mental anguish," "emotional distress" and "loss of use and enjoyment of life" after the April incident described at length in the suit:

9. On April 7, 2016, Ichel was attending a manager meeting at the front counter of Eatzi's, an upscale grocery store owned by Phil Romano. Phil Romano entered Eatzi's and approached the front counter. While walking behind Ichel Cook, Phil Romano inappropriately grabbed Ichel's buttocks with a grin on his face.
10. Ichel immediately turned around to face her attacker in shock. Upon recognizing the man that had violated her, Ichel became mortified and turned away to avoid escalating the situation in public.
11. Without any shame or remorse for his touching, Phil Romano grinned, walked several feet past Ichel, turned around, and stared back at Ichel in a disgusting and mocking manner. Phil Romano showed no signs of regret or shame.
12. The entire incident was captured on video.
According to the lawsuit, the situation didn't end there. 

13. Phil Romano later confronted Ichel to discuss what happened. Shockingly, the only justification Phil Romano offered was, "I thought you were just one of the guys." Ichel is not "just one of the guys." She is the mother of two boys. Phil Romano's attempted justification is inaccurate as to his motivations for the unwanted touching and also demeaning to Ichel. 
Cook still works for Eatzi's ("Unfortunately, Ichel is the primary provider for her two children, and had to return to work where the attack took place to make ends meet," the suit reads) and, according to the lawsuit, going to work has not been super fun for Cook since she lawyered up.

On June 20, 2016, Ichel's counsel emailed Phil Romano's counsel, Michael McCabe, informing him that Ichel would return to work on June 22, 2016. Ichel's counsel instructed Phil Romano, through his counsel, that no employee, supervisor, or human resources personnel of Eatzi's was speak to Ichel regarding the assault unless one of her attorneys was present. Despite this instruction, Ichel was called into a room and interrogated by Eatzi's CEO (Adam Romo) and the director of HR as soon as she returned to Eatzi's on Jun (sic) 22, 2016.
19. On information and belief, Phil Romano instructed the Eatzi's personnel to interrogate, harass, and try to intimidate Ichel. Specifically, Adam Romo and the HR director forced Ichel to travel from Eatzi's on Oaklawn (sic) to Eatzi's corporate office and sign an affidavit stating that she never witnessed Phil Romano assault any other patrons or staff. As a result, Ichel has endured even more stress, anxiety, and fear of returning to work. On information and belief, this harassing and intimidating conduct will continue to occur without Court intervention. 
Lawyers for Cook and Romano have not responded to request for comment, but WFAA says that Romano's lawyer Michael McCabe issued a statement saying the restaurateur's lawyers "will vehemently defend our client against these accusations and demonstrate that the case should be dismissed." Also in the lawsuit, Cook applied for a temporary restraining order but, according to WFAA, the order was denied.

Take a look at the lawsuit below: 

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Beth Rankin is an Ohio native and Cicerone-certified beer server who specializes in social media, food and drink, travel and news reporting. Her belief system revolves around the significance of Topo Chico, the refusal to eat crawfish out of season and the importance of local and regional foodways.
Contact: Beth Rankin