Wandering Dago food truck keeping its name

food truck festival troy 2013 wandering dago crowdThe Wandering Dago will continue to call itself the Wandering Dago. From a post on the food truck's FB page:

The name of our truck is not changing. Go take down Cracker Barrel or Guido's Desserts perhaps. They have no problem with people hassling them. I was the Little Dago growing up and if people don't like the name, they don't have to do business with us. Make no mistake, we are not calling anyone a "Dago" - that is a self reference. If you are curious about a self reference, listen to a rap song. We are Italian and Proud.

As you probably remember, the food truck -- started in Schenectady last year by Andrea Loguidice and Brandon Snooks -- was bounced from a spot at the Saratoga Race Course over a complaint about its name. And it was also turned away from vending at the Empire State Plaza this summer -- the name was cited by OGS as one of the reasons.

The term "dago" has been used as a slur against people of Italian descent, and sometimes people from Spain and Portugal as well. But as Snooks explained to AOA last year, the couple had embraced an alternative definition of the word in an effort to reclaim it.

The whole episode has prompted a lot of discussion -- both in the traditional media, and on Twitter and Facebook -- and a whole range of opinions. The discussion thread on the FB announcing the decision is a good example: comments there range from strong support for keeping the name, to concern about the name's effect on business, to outright disagreement with use of the name.

We have a call in with Loguidice and Snooks, and we're hoping to talk with them today not only about their decision making process in keeping the truck's name -- but also efforts they've started to "pave some concrete rules and regulations" for food trucks in the Capital Region.

[via Daily Gazette]

Earlier on AOA:
+ Wandering Dago food truck bounced from The Track because of name
+ Where the food trucks are. And aren't. And why.


I don't understand the reference to "Cracker Barrel" as a slur. The origins of that has nothing to do with "cracker" as a term for poor whites. It goes back to there literally being cracker barrels (um, barrels full of that kind of crispy flat bread known as crackers) in general stores. This makes me think the owners of The Wandering Dago have no knowledge of language, and the meaning and history of words. Everything they say on this subject confirms that to me and that they are at best naïve about cultural context. All their post-modern justifying of the term seems like damage control when they unexpectedly found themselves losing contracts and in the middle of controversy.

"Self reference" and "reclaiming" a word that was and may still be a slur to many is a poor business decision. But I believe in 1st Amendment rights and if their business model can take the loss of some business because of the name, well, then fine, stick with it on principle.

chrisck nailed it, and as I've said in previous comments about this, it's their right to court controversy. It is also their right to make unwise business decisions.

I didn't even realize that the name was an ethnic slur when they parked outside my office this summer. My senior co-worked pointed that out. I tried a sandwich and a strawberry lemonade from them and it was delicious. I would buy from them again but it's unfortunate that the name is offensive to some.

I'm more curious about this line: "he name was cited by OGS as one of the reasons"--one of the reasons? what were the other reasons?

@colleen: That's a good question. Here's the full statement OGS gave AOA when we asked about it a few weeks back:

"The food vendor in question was not banned from selling food at the Empire State Plaza. OGS has the authority and latitude to determine whether it is appropriate for any particular vendor to be issued a permit. This food truck applied for a vendor permit for the 2013 season and was not issued one. Among other reasons, it was determined that their application was not appropriate because the name of the business was found to be an offensive ethnic slur by any standard."

I followed up to ask about the process of making the determination on the WD application, but an OGS spokesperson said that's all they would be saying about the matter.

Hmmm....something must be lost in translation between "not banned" and "was not issued [a permit]." Amounts to the same thing. This food truck was apparently deemed "not appropriate." I'm not surprised that OGS is being phony-baloney with this cop out, double-speak explanation.

I have no problems with them keeping their name. I really don't care. But comparing it to things like "cracker barrel" and rap music is just sad. What's also sad is that they'll believe that whatever boon in business they have as a result of this "controversy" isn't anything other than 15 minutes of fame.

There is a saying that even bad publicity is publicity and these folks seem to be proving that point. From a personal perspective, as an Italian-American, the term is certainly offensive to me. It's really the same as if the name were the wandering n-word or the wandering spic or the wandering polock. Pick the degrading term and whether or not everyone finds it offensive, it would definitely be in bad taste and a bad example for children. My grandfather and father suffered from the stigma that comes from being referred to by a term like "dago" and it's hard to believe that someone who is supposedly of Italian ancestry would use it. No matter what the quality of their food is, I would never be a customer. Ciao.

I have a problem with the name of your company and suggest you change it. Having been a afflicted with wanderlust all my life (I ran away when I was 5) and marrying a women who claims to be 1/3 gypsy your use of wandering strikes me as offensive.
Consider something like The Insensitive Dago or even The Obnoxious Dago. How about capturing the essence of your cuisine?
The Greasy Dago. Perfect.

Can you also talk to them about their highly defensive and argumentative response to anyone that questions them? I had no freaking clue about any of this until I saw others retweeting on Twitter... and I'm just appalled at the lack of logic they apply to "lies" (which seem to just be people disagreeing with them) and resorting to condescending snark and "omg thanks for the free publicity haterz!" or "they started it not us, we have to defend our honor!" responses.

Despite being Italian-American the only thing that truly offends me here is how rude and immature these people seem for business managers. Welcome to the internet! People have opinions. Don't get so defensive.

"it's hard to believe that someone who is supposedly of Italian ancestry would use it" -anthony

Seriously? We are doubting the owner's ancestry now?

My grandparents were born in Italy and came to the US around the turn of the century. Would they have a problem with the truck's name? Probably. Would my dad? Probably not... I'll have to ask him. Do I? No. I hadn't even heard of the term until the Wandering Dago opened for business. Maybe you don't agree that it's possible to 'take back' a term that - lets face it - didn't even have that bad of a connotation to begin with (Paid as the day goes? Dem's fightin' woyds!) but I find it funny that people are even offended by this. It's a word with an outdated meaning. By finding offense in it and making such a big deal out of it, you are just perpetuating the old negative connotation.

According to their online menu, they are still serving sandwiches called the Polack and the Mick & Cheese. That's not "self-reference"
at all.

This statement has made a situation worse.

the name of the truck is offensive to many Italian Americans. PERIOD! What is so hard to understand about that? The name in itself is the reason that I would never patronize their food truck. What I do not understand the most is that why in any link of sense would someone continue to carry such a derogatory and offensive name when they know it is costly them business? Do the owners have that much business or are they that stupid? From my perspective, it is just not common sense for them to be turning away business just because of a name. Be proud of your Italian Heritage, if you are in fact Italian Americans, or lying about that also. There are very catchy and positive names that you could use that would not hurt your business. My advise, put aside your pride and get a "real" non offensive name before your business suffers from it.

I propose this experiment for the owners of The Wandering Dago: park the food truck near the Italian American Community Center, then the American Italian Heritage Museum on Central Ave in Albany. Do your poll on whether to change the name there instead of just asking a bunch of Know-Nothing hipsters on Facebook. Repeat process in Italian neighborhoods of Troy and Schenectady. While you are at it, talk to these people about the history of immigrants and their ethnic heritage and ask them why they find "dago" offensive. Educate yourself more broadly before you make a final decision.

Excellent point about the survey. Their "smart business sense" is relying on a survey taken from their own face book page! How brilliant are they to stack the odds in their favor on a poll with responses from their loyal face book followers. Furthermore, 1/3 of their own loyal followers polled suggest they change their name. Overall, they have been around here only a year, now that word is out there that their name is of a derogatory origin, I see their only hope on any future business success is to move back to Montana where it is acceptable apparently to call a young "boy" a dago and he does not get offended by it. The Wandering Dago is successfully running itself out of town. Hw stupid are they?

The term, at the height of its use, was specifically a slur against recent immigrants. The owners of the food truck may be of Italian descent, but they are not first-generation immigrants and their choice of name for the business and the items on their menu trivializes what those people endured. The claim of "self-reference" is BS. While I don't think this is a huge deal, I certainly will take them up on their offer of not doing business with them. The name is in bad taste, pun intended.

I can't agree more. I can still remember the tears in the eyes of many immigrant Italians on their way home, walking the streets and being called that name amongst many other names. I thought this terrible slur was stored away in the past memories of the elderly Italians in this country, but now it is being brought by by ungrateful, spoiled, insensitive and childish people

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

What's All Over Albany?

All Over Albany is for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. In other words, it's for you. It's kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who can help you find out what's up. Oh, and our friends call us AOA.


Recently on All Over Albany

Thank you!

When we started AOA a decade ago we had no idea what was going to happen. And it turned out better than we could have... (more)

Let's stay in touch

This all feels like the last day of camp or something. And we're going to miss you all so much. But we'd like to stay... (more)

A few things I think about this place

Working on AOA over the past decade has been a life-changing experience for me and it's shaped the way I think about so many things.... (more)

Albany tightened its rules for shoveling snowy sidewalks last winter -- so how'd that work out?

If winter ever gets its act together and drops more snow on us, there will be sidewalks to shovel. And shortly after that, Albany will... (more)

Tea with Jack McEneny

Last week we were fortunate enough to spend a few minutes with Jack McEneny -- former state Assemblyman, unofficial Albany historian, and genuinely nice guy.... (more)

Recent Comments

My three year old son absolutely loving riding the train around Huck Finn's (Hoffman's) Playland this summer.

Thank you!

...has 27 comments, most recently from Ashley

Let's stay in touch

...has 4 comments, most recently from mg

A look inside 2 Judson Street

...has 3 comments, most recently from Diane (Agans) Boyle

Everything changes: Alicia Lea

...has 2 comments, most recently from Chaz Boyark

A few things I think about this place

...has 13 comments, most recently from Katherine