(UPDATED) Steakhouse Crime – Italian Tourist Jailed for Forgetting Wallet

Italian tourist Graziano Graziussi was arrested at New York steakhouse Smith & Wollensky monday night, after forgetting his wallet at his hotel.
By Kalle Bergman

Smith Wollensky Steakhouse Arrested

It was supposed to be a good evening for Italian tourist Graziano Graziussi. On his second night of a two week holiday in New York City, he had planned a nice dinner with a friend and perhaps a late night stroll through the city. Instead, he ended up in jail – arrested for forgetting his wallet at his hotel.

Mr Graziussi and his friend went to upscale steakhouse Smith & Wollensky, where a rib eye steak costs 50 dollars. Dinner went well, until it was time to pay the bill. “- The moment the check arrived, I realized that I had actually forgotten my wallet at my hotel,” says Mr Graziussi, “so I kindly asked the staff how we could manage the situation. I proposed to leave my iPhone with them, run back to the hotel and then come back with my wallet in 15 minutes.”

The maître d at Smith & Wollensky would hear nothing of such a deal. Instead, the restaurant instantly called the Police. “- I wasn’t worried. I thought that the Police would laugh at the situation and let me go get my wallet,” says Mr Graziussi. “But, they were pretty rough”, he continues, “they handcuffed me outside the restaurant and took me straight to jail like a criminal.”

“- Jail was horrible, jail is horrible for anybody, you’re behind bars, you are treated like an animal, for forgetting your wallet,” Mr Graziussi says.

The next morning, a judge dismissed the case against Mr Graziussi, but he had to promise to show up in court to pay the bill next week. Mr Graziussi says he will of course pay, something he intended all along, but he is very disappointed with how Smith & Wollensky handled the situation. “- I would have expected an upscale place like Smith & Wollensky to behave a bit more corteous to their customers. This really could happen to anybody, and it was an honest mistake, but they didn’t care,” says Mr Graziussi.

Honest Cooking has tried to get in touch with Smith & Wollensky and its owners at Fourth Wall Restaurants. They have so far declined to comment on the incident.

As for Mr Graziussi, he will never forget his wallet again while in New York. If you are heading to Smith & Wollensky anytime soon, you too should probably double check that you have yours with you, unless you want to spend a night at a much less fancy establishment.

UPDATED JANUARY 25th, 5.59pm
After this story, first told by Honest Cooking, was picked up by mainstream media, Smith & Wollensky issued the following statement:

We have been in business in New York City for over 35 years and normally, it is our policy to maintain our guests’ privacy on all matters. We do not contact the police in any matter involving our customers without significant cause. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly commented on the situation in his press conference this afternoon:

“Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the 43-year-old lawyer from Naples did have a wallet with $118, but refused to hand it over. Graziussi claimed not to speak English, but a patrol supervisor who responded to the scene was fluent in Italian and was able to translate. He conducted the interview and determined that the individual simply did not want to pay.”

Kalle Bergman

Kalle Bergman

Kalle Bergman is the Editor In Chief at Honest Cooking. He has a lifelong obsession with simple and honest food, and he spreads the gospel wherever he can. His writing has been featured regularly in Gourmet, Los Angeles Times, Serious Eats and The Huffington Post.

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Originally Published: January 24, 2013

63 Responses to (UPDATED) Steakhouse Crime – Italian Tourist Jailed for Forgetting Wallet

  1. Jessie Reply

    January 24, 2013 at 9:18 am

    What a crazy story!

    • elysummers Reply

      January 25, 2013 at 2:22 pm

      I agree! And no one would help him? Not even the people in his party?

    • Ex-Waiter Reply

      January 25, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      Read Kelly’s comments. He had a wallet with $118.00 but refused to pay. Italian tourists are notorious for not paying and almost always do not tip.

  2. Ulderico Reply

    January 24, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    This looks like a clear case of false arrest! An unacceptable tort. I gather from the story of this peaceful and docile looking, lamb like face Italian, that he was held in custody without probable cause! he should press charges against the police department and Smith & Wollensky should, at the least: fire the maître d, void the dues, and offer ten free meals! to Graziano and his friend.

    • kimatsafkhet Reply

      January 25, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      damn straight they should, Ulderico!
      What were they thinking, arresting him like that?!

    • Davide Reply

      January 25, 2013 at 1:04 pm

      You are absolutely right, Ulderico!
      It’s a shame.
      Next time go to Del Frisco, Graziano.

    • marianne birarelli Reply

      January 27, 2013 at 10:36 am

      I agree that the restaurant went way too far!If they felt that passionate about this why then did they not have someone accompany him too his hotel room to get his wallet!For the restaurant to go this far I thought there may be more too this story. However, that does not seem too appear to be the case. I will scratch this restaurant off my list and head to the many other NY steakhouses!

  3. maria savage Reply

    January 24, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    I guess Mr Graziussi could sue them..but it’s so much better when a story like this starts going around the internet.

    • Guelfo Reply

      January 24, 2013 at 6:10 pm

      I heard this story and couldn’t believe it.
      Simple trust and customer relations just went out the window. How could Smith and Wollensky possibly think that they were doing the right thing. They obviously weren’t thinking. Maybe they have so many customers they don’t need more.
      I will not set foot in the place anymore.

  4. Desiree Reply

    January 24, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    How much is worth a nite in jail? And the humiliation of being handcuffed?
    I think S&W should apologize and be boycotted by food lovers for an amount of days matching the minutes this gentleman had to spend in jail

  5. Lorenzo Reply

    January 24, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Shame on you Smith&Wollensky! Such behavior is unacceptable.
    I will never come back there even if I live few blocks away

  6. Surati Reply

    January 24, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    It’s not a crime to forget your wallet. What is the world coming to !

  7. Andrew Marchino Reply

    January 24, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Absoluteley ATROCIOUS!!! Unbelievable that an upscale establishment such as this, with their reputation, could possibly allow this to happen. The restaurant should be boycotted!!

  8. Anonymous Reply

    January 24, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    How that fuck you forget your wallet in NYC!!! It’s like forgetting to drink water in the desert

  9. DAVID A. Reply

    January 24, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Shame on them!

  10. Casey Reply

    January 24, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    That is ludacris. Mr. Graziussi clearly was not trying to be decietful. Smith & Wollensky should be ashamed of the way they handled the situation. I will never eat at that restaurant and I hope that they lose more customers as well.

  11. Christine Niskanen Reply

    January 24, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    How very sad we treated a guest in our country this way. There were so many alternatives in which to solve this problem and allow the guest dignity and the opportunity to rectify the situation. For me, I own a travel agency and can assure you will be recommending to our travelers NOT to patronize this restaurant. The Maitre’d should be relieved of his duties and position.

    • Kath Reply

      January 25, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      I would hate to be an American Tourist in Rome who made such a mistake! Shame on this well known NY eatery!

  12. Debbie Szyszka Reply

    January 25, 2013 at 7:15 am

    I would not eat at Smith & Wollensky ever again. This is pathetic. Perhaps they have forgotten that their Manhattan restaurant had waiters involved with a credit card stealing scheme??? I had a reservation for the one in Las Vegas and I will be cancelling.

  13. lawrence saviano Reply

    January 25, 2013 at 8:41 am

    I’d like to hear a response from the maitre d on this issue, Will make me think twice about going there.

  14. Lisa Reply

    January 25, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Lots of holes in this story:

    1. Did his friend leave his/her wallet elsewhere, too?

    2. Why not have the friend go back to the hotel to pick up the wallet?

    3. What was happening with the friend when this guy was arrested? Again, why didn’t the friend go pick up the wallet?

    4. Couldn’t somebody from the hotel bring the wallet to him?

    4. Why didn’t he call his credit card company to ask them for the number to be entered manually?

    5. The Daily News says he claimed to leave his wallet at a friends place 30 blocks uptown, while this article says it was in a hotel. Which one was it? How did he get 30 blocks downtown without a wallet? And how was he going to get 30 blocks uptown and back in 15 minutes, as per this article, without a wallet?

    • Dale Reply

      January 25, 2013 at 4:47 pm

      I have to agree with you Lisa. How did he pay to get to the restaurant? This is the first I heard that he wasn’t dining alone. That makes sense. I wonder how a single person can run up a 208.00 tab? Top shelf Scotch must be 30.00 an ounce or he had a bottle of expensive bubbly! I do think he was definately treated wrong though. Jail! Ridiculous!

    • Tracy Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 7:41 pm

      Finally! Someone with common sense. It’s not as cut and dry as everyone is making it to be. When the police showed up, he suddenly forgot how to speak English. Too bad one of the officers spoke Italian. He acted like a pompous jerk and expected to get a freebie. Doesn’t that make more sense than Smith and Wollensky being dragged through the mud by this asshat?
      Before making such snap judgments, get all the facts. No — I’ve never been to Smith and Wollensky. No, I’ve never been a server. No, I have no ulterior motive. I’m just not a sheep and believe everything I read from one side only.

  15. Skip Reply

    January 25, 2013 at 11:29 am

    How about accepting PayPal or other mobile payments? In Italy, you can literally board a train, take an empty seat, buy a ticket on your iPhone, and display a barcode for the conductor to scan, so I can definitely understand not needing your wallet when you go out.

  16. F Reply

    January 25, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    It’s amazing the lack of accountability our culture supports to portray a person who cannot pay a bill as a “victim” with no responsibility in the incident.

  17. Walter - Milan Italy Reply

    January 25, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Agree with Lisa. In addition to her comment: 2 customers – one arrested – who decided which one and why ?
    Anyway one more reason to spend my holidays near home in Europe. Less stress.

  18. One angry person Reply

    January 25, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    I signed up the name of that sh…. place and will make sure that nobody I know will ever go there! The guy should sue them! And on another topic: authorities handling the situation this way in the US? It is really over the limit.

  19. Alfred S. Reply

    January 25, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    CONGRATULATIONS for the restaurant owner’s direct competitors, for the commercial suicide of formerly famous Smith & Wollensky…
    Word of mouth is bad, even worse if it goes around the internet, after all the guy IS a lawyer and he certinly has a quite long list of influential friends he can talk to…

  20. dave Reply

    January 25, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    I know a guy who pulls this crap all the time
    except he leaves his wallet in the car.
    The mistake here was this guy did not bring a second person with him

  21. Kalle Bergman

    Kalle Bergman Reply

    January 25, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Lisa – we have reported the story as it was told to us (taped interview), but obviously we cannot possibly know what Mr Graziussi told other media outlets. In regards to the events, Mr Graziussis experience was that S&W were not interested in any other solution than having him arrested (he did present several alternatives, none of them acceptable to the restaurant) – BUT, we have given the restaurant several opportunities to comment or give their side of the story. They have unfortunately so far declined, which is why we – as of now – only have Mr Graziussis testimony of what happened.

    • Lisa Reply

      January 25, 2013 at 9:50 pm

      Kalle, thanks for the response, but there were more holes in this guy’s story than Swiss cheese. None of it made any sense, unless he was trying to scam the restaurant, which Ray Kelly thinks he was (as did I this morning.)

      I do agree that Smith and Wollensky should have given a response earlier, though. Lots of bad publicity when they were actually the victims here.

      • Tracy Reply

        February 20, 2013 at 7:57 pm

        Great response Lisa. I don’t know — does Smith and Wollensky owe a response to this scam artist? That’s what he is. I don’t care how successful he is in Italy, he thought he would pull a fast one at S&W one night and got caught. Period. He thought he was a hot shot coming to NYC and deserved – I don’t know what, but he didn’t get it.

        Smith and Wollensky don’t owe the papers, the web, radio or any other media outlet any more coverage for this dirtbag.

        All these people who are pro-Graziano Graziussi, ask yourselves — if you were the owners of S&W and a so-called regular customer refused to pay a bill (even after the police showed, etc.) – would you just let it slide? Even when his dining companion did nothing? Also, should the police have let him go for still refusing to pay his bill? Or should he have received a “tourist-eat-free” coupon? Who should have paid the waitress? The chef? (shall I go down the line?)
        Just curious.

  22. Scott Reply

    January 25, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    How convinent for him to leave his wallet in the car

  23. Pingback: New York Steakhouse Crime: Jailed for Forgetting Wallet | The J File: Breaking News on the Jewish world and Israel.

  24. Alicia Reply

    January 25, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Smith & Wolinsky you were absolutely wrong in their
    Treatment of the Italian tourist. I will never eat there again.

  25. Pingback: Italian Tourist Arrested at Steakhouse After Forgetting Wallet - ABC News

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  27. Barry Andrews Reply

    January 25, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    So, the Italians and some Americans think we have unreasonable laws and rules in this country. I think back a few years ago when Amanda Knox sat in the Italian jails and prisons for a crime she did not commit; and mostly because of this judge and his “out there” fantasies and hallucinations.
    The stories may not be in the same category; but maybe this is payback for Amanda’s nightmare. I would never even step foot in Italy, if they have judges that are off their rockers.
    Amanda will probably never go to Italy again and Mr Graziussi will probably never forget his wallet again.

  28. Meghan Reply

    January 25, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    This is very sad–especially because when I was in Italy and didn’t have enough cash for a wonderful, delicious meal (I had a credit card but they we’re cash only unbeknownst to me when I started the meal) I offered to run to an ATM (leaving my friend as collateral) but the waiter said we could pay tomorrow instead. (We did just that.) I’ve heard similar stories from others as well. Not that I expect S&W to go that far, but they could have handled it a bit better.

  29. Pingback: Graziano Graziussi, 43-Year-Old Italian Tourist, Arrested After Refusing To Pay Smith & Wollensky Tab « Go to News!

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  31. Richy Rich Reply

    January 25, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    “Most people think happiness is about gaining something, but it’s not. It’s all about getting rid of the darkness you accumulate.”

    • Tracy Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 7:58 pm

      What? Take another toke.

  32. Richy Rich Reply

    January 25, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    This is NY cops will embarrass and taze you for Jwalking. Can’t make any exceptions we all have to fall in line. You have bad memory? this is NY you go to jail regardless there is no reason only the law. Leaving your wallet at home is severe surprised you got off so lightly.

    • Tracy Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 8:03 pm

      Yeah, the NYPD has never done anything good – right? You’ve got a beef with them and it doesn’t belong here.

      They responded to call from S&W and handled it well. Were the supposed to let him go? Are you going to pay the waitress? Chef? Owner?

  33. Pingback: Travel Blog | Tourist Jailed For Refusing To Pay Steakhouse Tab

  34. jasmine benz Reply

    January 26, 2013 at 2:10 am

    This latest stint by the infamous Smith & Wollnsky’s management team is nothing more than DAMAGE CONTROL for all their wrong doings to date. First, the manager and a bartender at Wollensky’s Grill beat up a 100 lb. female, and they relied on the cops at the 17th PCT to cover for their own crim acts by falsely arresting this female. Then, several waiters at Wollensky’s were busted for stealing credit cards from customers. So, now, there are several lawsuits against Wollensky’s and, once again, Wollensky’s is relying on cops at the 17th PCT to arrest another innocent victim, and worse, Comm Kelly spoke out with complete crap about the “facts” when, in reality, Comm Kelly’s also covering for Wollensky’s, feeding the public with complete garbage, and Kelly also gets free food and drinks at Wollensky’s. So, if anyone wants to question anything about the incident, first, you should question if the NYPD is telling the truth in the first place … NOT.

    • Anonymous Reply

      January 27, 2013 at 1:37 am

      She was drunk bitch kicking and punching everyone. I was there that night. None of manager and bartender touch her.she was to sit down by some another customers who sit near the bar.

      • Tracy Reply

        February 20, 2013 at 8:01 pm

        Of *course* it’s the ENTIRE NYPD that is covering for one foreigner that won’t pay his tab. That totally makes sense. Especially if they get a meal out of it. That makes it allll worth it.

        I’m betting “Jasmine Benz” is the one who was cuffed and stuffed. [yawn] moving on.

  35. Pingback: Tourist Jailed For Refusing To Pay Steakhouse Tab | New 2000

  36. Rachel Suarez Reply

    January 26, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I also noticed that when they did finally release a statement(S&W), they said that “We have been in business in New York City for over 35 years and normally, it is our policy to maintain our guests privacy on all matters. We do not contact the police in any matter involving our customers without significant cause.” Apparently they didn’t catch the article by the New York Post from Jan 25th where the bartender/mngr already opened his big mouth, ” a manager and bartender at the restaurant last night said it’s standard practice to call cops whem a customer can’t pay.” This definitely sounds like they just did not expect for the exposurr of one incident to get so widespread, the heat got too high and now they are just scrambling to do some damage control.

  37. Rachel Suarez Reply

    January 26, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Exposure, not exposurr ;)

  38. Sean Reply

    January 26, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Well, I hope he didn’t leave a tip.

  39. David Reply

    January 26, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    A peasant did not pay his restaurant bill at this restaurant, was handcuffed and got thrown in jail for the night, case was dismissed the next day by a New York City judge, even though New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly stood up for the restaurant…

    To make it worse the peasant was an Italian Tourist, who was a lawyer 43 years old, as they say “Welcome to New York”

    Leave it to the media to try and convict this guy in the press, restaurants should in this day and age, not be setting examples as having people arrested…and if they do they should lose lots of business…I will never go there ever again…this is a disgrace for what was a 35 year old successful restaurant…

    Sometimes the big successful restaurants, forget who they are serving, the people,
    I hope they lose at least a small bit of their palatial status as a New York restaurant. Hope the police commissioner they have in their back pocket helped them well here. He probably gets a table in the best spot for covering them on this one. How many police and commissioners did this serious matter take to deal with. Nice wealthy dealing with peasant tactics…

    Is this the American Way?

    Also I do not think peasants should visit any of these 5 restaurants, in any city they are located as they might also get handcuffed…

    I will not ever eat there….

    • Tracy Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 8:04 pm


      Well said.

  40. Paul Reply

    January 27, 2013 at 4:49 am

    I dont understand everybody’s negative comments?? First of all, he had a wallet with $118 on him and didn’t give it up. His friend also couldn’t pay?? His friend could not walk to the hotel to get his wallet?? He couldn’t call his hotel with his iPhone to have someone drop off his wallet??

  41. Pingback: 43-Year-Old Italian Tourist, Arrested After Refusing To Pay Tab | The 5 Towns Jewish Times

  42. lawrence Reply

    January 28, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Ex waiter and Paul, please go to this page and read the true story (the 118 $ version of course couldn’t work)…no need to reply to stupid prejudices.

    …and considering the bill, the thieves are somewhere else. If you want to be a five stars restaurant you need to have a five stars style.

  43. Tom Jarrett Reply

    January 29, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Try pulling that dine and dash scam in Italy and watch how fast they lock you up.

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  45. Cal Reply

    June 13, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    S&W’s should have called the TSA, they would have “found” the money, one way or another.

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