The owners of an Indianapolis food truck named Little Eataly say that lawyers for Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s restaurant group have been putting pressure on them to change their business name, as well as relinquish their web domain, for the past eight months. Little Eataly has been serving a menu of Sicilian and American mash-up food, like “Indy” muffulettas and peanut-butter-and-fig-jam sandwiches with crispy prosciutto, as well as classics like panelle sandwiches, for three years. But now, Chae and Rob Carmack say, the Eataly folks have “threatened to take our beloved purple truck,” as well as their assets. The Carmacks say they cannot afford to re-brand, or even enter into a legal battle with the slow food mega-grocer.
At a moment when the original, Turin-based Eataly is breaking ground on a behemoth food-themed amusement park, and Batali and Bastianich have hinted at a major U.S. expansion, perhaps none of this is a surprise. After all, it’s entirely possible Eataly would want to make sure no one confused its 60-square-foot digs with a little purple food truck parked on the streets of Indianapolis. Here’s what the Carmacks, who say all they’re looking for is a little help with re-branding — that, and not to be called cybersquatters — have to say for themselves:
Little Eataly launched our small business and our dream on the streets of Indianapolis just before the Super Bowl in 2011. We have worked countless hours to build our small business one cannoli at a time. Behind the scenes however, we have been in battle to maintain all that we have worked so hard to create. We feel you have a right to know what’s happening and what lies ahead for Little Eataly as you know it.
Last August, we were blindsided when we received a letter from the attorneys representing “Eataly the Market” based in New York city (co-owned by Chef Mario Batali) stating we were infringing on their trademark and we constituted unfair competition in the marketplace. They demanded we stop operations under our name immediately. We have operated under the common trademarked name “Little Eataly” since 2011 so we thought for sure there must have been some mistake. We hired an attorney who clarified we were not using Eataly’s trademark, rather playing off the idea of the “Little Italy” neighborhoods which are sprinkled throughout the country. As far as unfair competition in the marketplace? They are located in New York and Chicago. We operate a little purple truck in Indianapolis. There is simply no competition that exists. No matter, after a seven month long exchange where we offered to compromise, Eataly will not back down. They have now threatened to take our beloved purple truck, all of our assets and demand we turn over our domain at www.littleeataly.com at no cost to them claiming we, get this, are cybersquatting.
Here’s the deal. We have one of the top attorney firms in the city and a winnable case. However, they are bigger, and more importantly richer. We have offered them several solutions so that we can both coexist, we have even offered to change our name if they help us cover the costs, but they are not willing to budge. We grew Little Eataly out of our love for fresh, local food worth eating. We cook because we love to feed people and make them happy. We believe in the American dream and teach our kids that hard work, sweat and tears pay off in life. Sadly, money talks, so this time David falls to the wealthy Goliath.
However, this David won’t stay down for long. We may have to change our name, but we will rebuild. That means rebuilding our audience on Facebook and Twitter, rebranding our truck, and once again proving to you, our hungry loyal fans, good food still tastes great, no matter what you call it!
Chea & Rob Carmack