Giovanna Pedretti, a 59-year-old restaurant owner, was found dead on Sunday afternoon. She was the owner of pizzeria "Le Vignole" in Sant'Angelo Lodigiano, northern Italy. Her car was found in the middle of the countryside, a few metres away from the bank of the Lambro river. Recently Giovanna had become the centre of a media scandal, after a homophobic and anti-disabled review was left by a customer on Google.
Pizzeria “Le Vignole'', which Giovanna and her husband Nello owned and worked in together for more than 30 years, was known for its support of disabled people and the LGBTQ+ community. Since 2020, it has promoted various outreach initiatives, such as suspended pizza (pizza sospesa) for poor and disabled people. It is a form of generosity that involves eating one pizza and paying for two, leaving the other for a less fortunate stranger.
Because of one Google review, Giovanna and her restaurant made headlines all over the country. "I was put to eat next to gay people, I didn't notice right away because they were composed, and a boy in a wheelchair who was eating with difficulty, I was sorry but I didn't feel comfortable. Too bad because the pizza was excellent and the dessert was great, but I won't go again," said the unhappy customer.
The owner replied “I kindly ask you not to return to us, unless you find in yourself the human requisites that have been lacking in your attitude”.
The dispute became one of the hottest topics in the country, with lots of people showing admiration for Giovanna for defending others. Others, however, doubted the authenticity of the review, suggesting that the owner wrote the comment herself, to improve the image and reputation of the restaurant and make headlines.
The review was from last summer and had since been deleted, Giovanna explained, but she had taken a screenshot of it. This element of the deleted post, however, raised suspicions of the review's authenticity among some social media users. Among them was chef Lorenzo Biagiarelli, who wrote on his socials: "The font of the review, like the one of the response, is different from the one used by Google. Look at the shape of the 'a'. The line spacing and spacing are different as well. Google's wording is grainy while the body of the text is perfectly in focus."
Biagiarelli’s remarks were later echoed by his partner Selvaggia Lucarelli, who launched the hypothesis of "a gross photomontage" and "a marketing operation passed off as a heroic defence of gays and the disabled." The idea of the fake then began to circulate on the web.
The alarm was raised about Giovanna’s safety by her daughter and husband Nello. According to local investigators, Giovanna allegedly left home early Sunday morning (home camera footage showed the woman leaving her home, above the restaurant, at 4 a.m.). Her movements were then unknown until the body was found early Sunday afternoon.
The circumstance which immediately aroused suspicion was her absence from work - an absolute rarity. Giovanna was a hard worker, who for many years had been dividing her time between the dining room and the kitchen in order to carry on her small business in the best possible way.
The Lodi Public Prosecutor's Office together with the Sant'Angelo Lodigiano Carabiniers have opened an investigation, with no criminal charges as yet, and an autopsy has been ordered, as well as a toxicological examination.
There are speculations that the woman may have taken her own life. The Pedretti family reportedly did not have any particular economic problems. Instead, it is speculated that the shadow of "fake news" and social hatred drove Giovanna to take her own life.
It is an immense tragedy that adds to the one already experienced by the family of Giovanna Pedretti, who on January 12th a decade ago lost her brother to suicide in Sant'Angelo Lodigiano.
The news of the restaurateur's sudden death has sparked a strong reaction throughout the Lodi community. "Last Friday I phoned Giovanna to comment together on the reports in the news about her story and her response to the customer," says one friend, still in shock. "She was delighted, happy that she had done the right thing by kindly responding to such a review. Then we also heard about the negative comments. I had reassured her, "Gio we all know you are a good person." She was a strong person and a hard worker. I am truly shaken by what has happened. It is an immense tragedy. We are all devastated."
Edited by Tatyana Kekic
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