Randy Moss returns to Minnesota where he insulted Deli | Trending Searches

Randy Moss returns to Minnesota where he insulted Deli




NEWPORT, Minn. — The walls inside Tinucci’s deli and dining room are covered with family photographs dating to the 1930s, along with two decades of newspaper reviews. Nothing indicates the event that put the unpretentious establishment ever so briefly in the national spotlight almost two years ago. Gus Tinucci, a stocky man in his early 50s, still chuckles about it. Tinucci was the fellow at the carving station, slicing from a round of beef at the training complex of the Minnesota Vikings, when wide receiver Randy Moss eyeballed the catered lunch and, according to Tinucci, announced profanely that he would not feed it to his dog. That started a chain of events that led Brad Childress, who was the Vikings’ coach, to put Moss on waivers the next week without telling the team’s principal owner, Zygi Wilf, who had acquired Moss from the New England Patriots a month earlier. The Vikings subsequently imploded. Childress was fired three weeks later. Moss hooked on with Tennessee after the Vikings let him go and retired the next summer. And what of Tinucci’s? A three-generation mom-and-pop outfit founded in 1958, it turned the free publicity into off-the-charts business for the next nine months. “I did 58 radio interviews after it happened, all across the country,” Tinucci said in the deli last week while whole chickens spun slowly in the rotisserie behind the counter. “It was crazy. I had relatives in L.A. who said, ‘Gus, we heard you on the radio.’ “We go out on catering jobs today, two years later, and people will make comments — ‘Would Randy eat this?’ It’s ingrained in their heads.” Now Moss, after changing his mind about playing, returns to the Metrodome on Sunday with the San Francisco 49ers (2-0) to face the Vikings (1-1). Tinucci, who owns the business with his brother, Mark, says he has not planned anything special to mark Moss’s return. “We probably should have thought about that,” he said. But he does have one question lingering from the whole episode. Though Vikings ownership apologized to Tinucci for Moss’s outburst, Tinucci said that after that season, the team never asked him to cater another event. Tinucci says he wonders if he angered Wilf by speaking to reporters about Moss, who Tinucci said did not apologize to him. Tinucci said he asked the Vikings for guidance before doing any interviews and was told by one official to simply, “Tell the truth.” “I’ve never asked anyone,” he said. “I would love to have an answer.” Bob Hagan, a spokesman for the Vikings, said the Tinuccis did not offend the team’s ownership and were not barred. “We have had 20 to 25 different caterers over the last two years,” he said. “There’s nothing that would prevent us from using them or any other caterer at some point in the future.”

Tinucci said that before the Moss episode, the Vikings hired them four times to cater meals at the team’s Winter Park complex. The former Vikings offensive linemen Matt Birk and Corbin Lacina initially brought Tinucci’s to the team’s attention after patronizing the deli for family events. Neither player was still with the Vikings in 2010, but Tinucci said Childress arranged for the caterer to feed the team after practice on Oct. 29, two days before the Vikings played at New England. Moss’s reaction stunned teammates like quarterback Brett Favre, who later told reporters he enjoyed the meal, which featured ribs and chicken as well as the carved beef. “I’ve had people ask me, ‘What did you do?’ ” Tinucci said. “And I’m like, what did you want me to do? Take him out at the knees? Punch him?” Moss caught one pass for 8 yards in the 28-18 loss to the Patriots. After the game, he saluted Coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots, said Childress ignored his input on New England’s tendencies and announced he would answer only his own questions the rest of the season instead of those from reporters. He did not return to Minnesota with the team, and Childress cut him the next day. After details of the Moss incident leaked out, Tinucci’s capitalized on the attention. The next Friday, at the suggestion of a local radio station, it offered free lunches to the first 50 people who turned in replicas of Moss’s No. 84 jersey and an $8.40 lunch special to everyone else. It donated the jerseys, along with money, to charity. The event even brought out Mark Dayton, then Minnesota’s governor-elect, whose deputy campaign manager, Katharine Tinucci, is Gus’s niece. On Wednesday, while speaking with Bay Area reporters, Moss summed up his two stints with the Vikings this way: “History is history; the past is the past, and I’m a 49er now. So I just look for what I can do for this team.” Business remains strong at Tinucci’s, whose catering clients include the Minnesota Wild and four University of Minnesota athletic teams. Tinucci said he might consider a last-minute Moss-themed special to the more than 4,000 customers who subscribe to Tinucci’s e-mail service. Or not. “I’d love for somebody to ask him if he went to Tinucci’s when he came to town,” Tinucci said with a mischievous grin. “He would probably say, ‘What’s Tinucci’s?’ ”

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