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Restaurateur Behind RI’s Deep-Fried DNC Roll Call Dishes On His ‘Bipartisan Calamari’

(TPM Illustrations/Getty Images)
August 19, 2020 5:02 p.m.

Rhode Island made quite a splash at the virtual Democratic National Convention Tuesday night with its delightfully deep-fried presidential nomination roll call(amari?) that saw state Democratic Party chair Joseph McNamara proudly declare Rhode Island as the “Calamari Comeback State” while a masked chef silently stood by holding a pile of the fried treat.

But David Gravino, the owner of the restaurant that supplied the platter (the restaurant’s chef was featured in the actual video), wants America to know that despite accepting the DNC’s invitation to participate in Joe Biden’s nomination, both he and his calamari are untethered to any political party.

“It’s bipartisan calamari,” Gravino, owner of “Iggy’s Doughboys and Chowder House” in Warwick, told TPM over the phone in a gravelly New England accent.

Gravino said that McNamara, who launched a fierce campaign to designate calamari as Rhode Island’s official state appetizer in 2013, had approached him about the roll call.

“He picked us because we’re a Rhode Island staple,” the restaurateur said. “We see thousands of people every day.”

The Rhode Islander asserted that as a business owner, it was important for him to stay “neutral.” If President Donald Trump or the GOP had asked, Iggy’s calamari would’ve starred in next week’s Republican National Convention too, Gravino said.

After all, “you’re not going to label calamari as a Democrat or a Republican,” the restaurateur told TPM. “It’s for everyone.”

“Donald Trump and Joe Biden are both invited down and they both can have the calamari with me, and we’ll talk about something other than politics,” he added.

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