An Italian celebrity chef threatened by the Mafia has published online images of unknown assailants who broke into his Palermo restaurant and urinated on desserts in an apparent act of intimidation. Natale Giunta has been targeted by the mob since he refused to pay protection money – the so-called 'pizzo' – to Cosa Nostra in 2012 and reported his extorters to police leading to five arrests.
On 13 May, at night, at least four men barged into his sea-view Castello a Mare restaurant located besides an ancient fortress overlooking the Sicilian city's marina and vandalised its kitchen. The assailants are seen taking a number of cakes out of a fridge and urinating on them in security camera photos posted on Facebook by the chef.
Other desserts were used to dirty vans of Giunta's catering company parked outside. The restaurant was broken into again the following night, when intruders left a slash on a door.
The 36-year-old cook, who described the vandals as "ignoble people", stopped short of saying Mafia was responsible for the incidents. "The forced the door open, broke inside and didn't steal anything. It's odd," he told IBTimes UK.
Police said they were investigating the incidents and could not rule out any motive, including Mafia-related.
Giunta has become a star in Italy, where he regularly appears on national television as a guest cook on the local version of Ready Steady Cook. Since 2013, however, he has lived under police protection.
His ordeal started when he was visited by henchmen of a Palermo clan that demanded he pay €2,000 (£1,500, $2,200) to operate in their area. He refused and has since received a number of direct and indirect threats including a restaurant van set on fire and several break-ins.
Customers have been supportive sending many messages of solidarity but some prefer to stay away from the restaurant and connected activities. "Since I first reported [the extortion] to police in 2012 I've lost more than €2m a year in revenue," Giunta said.
Nevertheless he vowed to fight on, publicly shaming vandals posting their photos online. "I have to go on, there are no alternatives," he said. "I just hope these incidents end so I can continue doing what I know best, cooking."