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Stella Will Open in West Hollywood Despite Reports of Chef’s Prior Workplace Misconduct

An independent investigation found that Gentile engaged in “disrespectful and harassing behavior” at Buca in Toronto

A bald male chef with tattooed arms presses a raw fish.
Rob Gentile prepares a dish inside one of the auxiliary kitchens for Stella in West Hollywood.
Matthew Kang
Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

Forthcoming West Hollywood Italian restaurant Stella is moving forward despite prior allegations of workplace misconduct against its chef Rob Gentile while he worked at a restaurant in Toronto, Canada.

On Friday, January 26, a Los Angeles Times report on the soon-to-open restaurant surfaced allegations that Gentile engaged in workplace harassment while working for Toronto’s King Street Food Company. The Times story follows a 2021 Toronto Life report on the wider company culture and alleged financial mismanagement at King Street. That report alleged Gentile, while executive chef at King Street restaurant, Buca, used racist and sexist nicknames for staff and made “berating and belittling” comments towards employees.

Gentile denied allegations surrounding financial mismanagement as described in the Toronto Life report to Eater earlier this month, while Stella principal Janet Zuccarini said she “asked him the hard questions” before partnering with him on Stella. The latest Times report provides further insight into Gentile’s alleged actions while at Buca, purportedly based on Buca’s internal and independent documentation that investigated the company’s workplace culture.

Lauren Bernardi, who led the independent investigation, concluded that Gentile had engaged in “disrespectful and harassing behavior” in an Instagram group chat with colleagues. Gentile is accused of making crude comments to Buca staff in the chat in relation to a photo of a woman, suggesting that she was intoxicated and “having sex with multiple Black male partners,” according to the Times.

Gentile claimed in comments to the Times that he was ultimately fired by King Street Food Company during the pandemic when his partners learned he was doing outside catering work.

In a statement to Eater, Zuccarini, also primary owner of Felix in Venice, said she learned new details that she found shocking and upsetting during her call with Times reporter Noah Goldberg. “These revelations were not aligned with whom I know Rob to be,” she said. Still, she said she is working with her company, Gusto 54, as well as other partners and investors to assess the situation, and stands behind her belief in “giving people second chances.” Zuccarini said Gentile will continue to helm Stella with support from its staff, the Gusto 54 team, and herself. The statement said that the group is “committed to fostering a positive work environment with zero tolerance for misbehavior, harassment, or toxicity.”

Gentile’s statement to Eater acknowledged and expressed regret over the comments documented by King Street Food Company. “I understand that this behavior does not align with the leader I was or aspire to be,” he said.

Zuccarini’s statement cites her successful track record over three decades and offers it as a safeguard against future misconduct: “I am steadfast in my commitment to ensure that my company maintains the standards and expectations I have worked so hard to create, nurture, and protect throughout my nearly three decades of owning and operating Gusto 54.”

Correction, January 31, 4:26 p.m.: This piece has been updated to reflect the subject of alleged crude comments made by Gentile was a woman in a photograph shared in a group chat.

Stella West Hollywood

8899 Beverly Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90048 Visit Website