When Gus Rancatore put up the Save Toscanini's! website, his hope was to solicit donations to pay his tax bill. Very quickly, he raised more than $30,000. But the site also became an open forum. Some visitors posted good-luck notes; others posted lengthy denunciations of the plan. Here's a taste of what was said:
Whether it is a children's art project or a community block party, Gus and Mimi are always there for the neighbors, the neighborhood, supporting the arts and civilized society in general. Here is a chance to return the favor… -- Norah
As customers, we did our part: We bought the product. You made money. The government expects you to do your part. We shouldn't have to do that for you, too. -- Anonymous
I don't care whose fault it is or what led to taxes not being paid. I care about having a city that is filled with more than just global chains and their focus-group-engineered offerings. Toscanini's is a part of what makes Cambridge a vital, livable place. -- Bryan
How about another option for those of us who like the store & the product but who don't feel comfortable with the idea of an outright gift in this situation. Namely: sell a limited number of "tosci's futures." Each "future" purchased now would be redeemable in the future (some months out, when it will be ice-cream-eating weather) for a pint of ice cream. -- Anonymous
As someone whose modest salary is provided by taxpayer dollars (librarian), I am irritated by this campaign. Customers already pay tax -- meal tax. How is it ethical for a for-profit business to ask its customers, whose taxes it apparently pocketed, to pay AGAIN? -- JR
We have a homegrown original in Toscanini's that makes us rightly proud. Name another Cambridge institution that delivers a Nobel-level experience at a price within reach of all…We have had the bargain of a lifetime at Toscanini's and should not hesitate to pick up a shovel and help dig it out in its hour of need.
This Tosci story is a classic robbing Peter to pay Paul tale. Toscanini's paid their suppliers with meals tax money, and then put off paying their meals tax because they thought they could, and then cried foul when a penalty was attached…As a businessperson, you don't mess around with taxes, because this is the result.
-- friend of JR
It would be a lot more reasonable and ethical to set up an independent fund that the Rancatores could BORROW from. They could promise to pay the contributors back with…interest. -- Anonymous
It must be difficult for some people to understand why others would donate money to a for-profit business when there are so many social and humanitarian needs around us. We reasonably expect a business to be fiscally responsible and if not, to cover its own debts. But the situation with Toscanini's, whose wonderful products I have consumed on only rare occasions, seems to be a special one. Aside from the difficulties independent businesses have in the current American economic structure and climate, Toscanini's has played an important and benevolent role in its community. To those who love it, it is understandable that they would want to keep it alive and would regard their donation as an investment with a high return of quality of life. -- Susan
How much longer are Americans going to bail out people for making mistakes? If this was a fire [or] an unforeseen natural disaster (see Hurricane Katrina), I would understand and give money if I had it to give. But this is crazy. -- Anonymous
I worked at Tosci's for almost four years in the early '90s and witnessed innumerable acts of kindness and generosity from Gus to employees, local businesses and organizations, police & fire departments and regular folk. Whatever mistakes he has made, those acts speak more loudly to me, and they are the reason that I'm donating. -- Tosci alum