By Steve Barnes | Times Union
The Schenectady-based Wandering Dago food truck, which had a contract to operate at the Saratoga Race Course this season and was the first vendor mentioned in a press release promoting food at the track, was told to leave after opening day on Friday because an unnamed state official found the name offensive, according to the truck’s co-owner Brandon Snooks.
“We got the boot,” Snooks said Saturday.
He and co-owner Andrea Loguidice returned to the track Saturday morning and were told to remove the truck from track grounds or it would be towed, Loguidice said. Wandering Dago has a contract for the duration of the racing season that requires a 30-day written notice of cancellation, she said. No concerns over the name were raised during six months of negotiations with the New York Racing Association, which manages the race track, and Centerplate, which supervises food service at Saratoga Race Course, Loguidice said.
The news release from Centerplate, distributed Thursday, put Wandering Dago at the top of a list of nine food options at the track, calling it “one of the country’s top barbecue fusion trucks.”
“We received several complaints” on Friday, said NYRA spokesman Eric Wing. “This should have been handled before Friday, but once we received complaints, we took immediate action on behalf of our customers,” Wing said.
“We had to turn down several weddings and a few festivals to make this commitment to the race track, not to mention the food product already purchased,” Snooks said. Centerplate will not charge Wandering Dago for the cost of products it ordered to prepare for serving at the track, Wing said.
“They’re not making us pay for the food, but that doesn’t begin to cover all of the costs we’ve incurred,” including new equipment purchased for track season and lost revenue from track sales and from catering engagements Wandering Dago turned down because of its contract in Saratoga, Loguidice said.
Wandering Dago is also banned from selling at the Empire State Plaza in Albany because of its name, Loguidice said. The truck’s name was accepted on incorporation papers by the Department of State’s Division of Corporations, State Records and Uniform Commercial Code, the state Department of Taxation and Finance and the IRS, she said, but an official of the Office of General Services, which oversees the plaza, said the name was unacceptable for a vendor.
“It is ridiculous that we are a licensed New York state corporation, yet we are being blocked from doing business by state officials,” Snooks said.
Snooks and Loguidice are Italian and chose the name to honor their heritage, she said. “We don’t think it’s offensive in any way.” The term “dago” originated from Italian immigrants who worked as laborers and asked to be paid “as the day goes,” which became “dago,” Loguidice said. “That’s how we make our money, as they day goes. It might be 50 people, or it might be 100; there’s no guarantee. And since we wander to different cities during the day, we thought the name was perfect.”
Loguidice and Snooks, who are from downstate, speculated that the term may be considered more offensive upstate than where they grew up. “I was talking to my grandmother about it, and she said while there are other words that would be offensive, ‘dago’ isn’t to her,” Loguidice said.