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Nini’s Deli Closes After Protests Over Racist and Homophobic Remarks

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Plus, Marz and Kimski’s owners launch a “Community Kitchen”

Nini’s Deli was given a makeover over the weekend.
Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago

Nini’s Deli has permanently closed in West Town after crowds gathered over the weekend to protest a series of racist and homophobic social media posts made by its owners. The restaurant’s bright pink brick at the corner of Noble and Ohio has since been painted over with a Black Lives Matter logo. Protesters left several signs denouncing the anti-Black sentiments expressed by brothers Juan “Juany” and José Riesco. Juany Riesco announced that Nini’s would close and he would pursue being a Christian minister.

A bench with T-shirts left.
Chicago Native T-shirts left abandoned over the weekend.
Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago

Nini’s, 543 N. Noble Street, was a fast-casual restaurant that served Cuban-inspired breakfast sandwiches with ropa vieja and empanadas. The restaurant was very popular in the Noble Square neighborhood over the last nine years. The Riecos are of Cuban, Mexican, and Lebanese descent. Co-owner Juany Riesco has ambitions stretching beyond restaurants. His since-deactivated Instagram handle, “Juanyworldwide” was patterned off of William Wesley, the mega sports agent known as “World Wide Wes.” Riesco had a clothing company called Chicago Native, and collaborated on a pair of sneakers with Nike. Chicago Native has also ceased operations. A surplus of unwanted T-shirts were abandoned over the weekend along Chicago Avenue in West Town.

Last week, as demonstrations took place in Chicago and across the country protesting police brutality — and the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery — Nini’s fans asked Juany Riesco what he thought of the Black Lives Matter movement. The Riescos made statements online and outside the restaurant that equated BLM to a terrorist group, with Juany Riesco citing his religious beliefs and that “does not stand behind any movement that hates all police officers.” The brothers also made homophobic and anti-Muslim remarks.

The backlash led to Nike severing ties with Riesco. Several food companies that worked with Nini’s followed, with Intelligentsia Coffee, Bang Bang Pies, and Cash Drop all backing away from the Riescos. Christian Rangel wrote a comprehensive timeline on the saga. The Tribune sent a reporter to Sunday’s protest.

Home Team Pizza neighbors Nini’s, and on Monday morning there was a message in front of the sidewalk: “Eat here,” with an arrow pointing to the pizzeria. Another message had an arrow pointing at Nini’s “Not there.” On Monday, June 15, Home Town will donate all proceeds from pizza slices sales from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. to former Nini’s workers.

In other news...

  • The teams behind Bridgeport establishments Marz Community Brewing, Kimski, and Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar have launched a new initiative aimed at feeding Chicagoans in need. Called the Community Kitchen, the month-long project will provide 200 meals per day, three days per week, for South Side residents, families, and heath care workers. Those who want to help support or expand the program can donate online or contact Ed Marszewski at edmar@marzbrewing.com.
  • Celebrated chef Tony Mantuano, founder of acclaimed Italian restaurant Spiaggia, has signed on with wife Cathy to open three new establishments in Nashville, Tennessee, according to the Tribune. They include high-end Italian restaurant Yolan, casual spot Denim, and cocktail bar Four Walls, all inside forthcoming Luxury Collection hotel the Joseph. Mantuano was a co-founder of short-lived Wrigleyville restaurant Maddon’s Post, which closed in December after seven months. It was named for partner and former Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who has since left Chicago to manage the Los Angeles Angels.

Nini's Deli

543 North Noble Street, , IL 60642 (312) 243-9822 Visit Website

Home Team Pizza

1363 W Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60642 (312) 291-8666 Visit Website

Intelligentsia Coffee

53 E Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60601 312 920 9332

Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar

960 W 31st St, Chicago, IL 60608 (773) 890-0588 Visit Website

Maddon's Post

1119 West Waveland Avenue, , IL 60613 (773) 269-5370 Visit Website

Spiaggia

980 North Michigan Avenue, , IL 60611 (312) 280-2750 Visit Website

Intellegentsia

1611 W Division St., Chicago, IL 60622 773.516.5833 Visit Website

Bang Bang Pie Shop

2051 N California Ave, , IL 60647 (773) 276-8888 Visit Website

Kimski

954-960 West 31st Street, , IL 60608 (773) 823-7336 Visit Website

Marz Community Brewing

3630 S. Iron Street, Chicago, Visit Website

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