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Tinucci's gets revenge on Randy

T-shirts that declared, "Tinucci's caters to the classy ... No Moss!"were selling fast during Friday's event. Staff photo by Jon Avise.

The owners of an area-based restaurant dished back at ex- Minnesota Viking Randy Moss after the NFL star dissed its food late last month, just days before he was dismissed from the team.

Tinucci's of Newport and Woodbury partnered with Twin Cities-based radio station ESPN 1500 to stage "Free Lunch, Homey" on Friday, where the restaurant offered at a "bargain price" the same menu item its catering business served to the Vikings during practice last month.

The event followed several sports media reports that stated Moss threw a fit in front of a Tinucci's caterer Oct. 29 while the employee was serving the Vikings players a post-practice lunch.

Tinucci's co-owner Gus Tinucci confirmed the story for the Bulletin and dozens of other media last week after the report was first published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Tinucci said he was helping set up the lunch and a carving station for the players when Moss walked up, took one look at the spread of chicken, ribs and round of beef and began using expletives while criticizing the food.

"All the other Vikings players appreciated it, they liked our food," Tinucci said. "But you've got one bad apple and he was on a mission to ruin the bunch."

Tinucci said the restaurant is not responsible for the leaked report of Moss's tirade against the caterer. But as soon as the Pioneer Press called to confirm with Tinucci that the story was true, he said "everyone kept calling for interviews."

The news garnered extra attention after the Vikings released Moss from the team last week four weeks after they had acquired him in a trade.

All the media attention Tinucci's received for Moss's criticism of its food led ESPN 1500 execs to approach Tinucci and ask if he would be willing to stage a "fun-based" promotion at his restaurant that would make light of Moss's brief return to the Vikings.

As a result, from noon to 2 p.m. on Friday the Tinucci's Newport location offered free meals to the first 50 people who show up and turn in their Randy Moss jerseys.

Hundreds packed the restaurant's Newport dining room to turn over jerseys for a free lunch, or dine on the specially priced lunch buffet -- $8.40, a play on Moss' jersey number -- and listen to local sports talk station ESPN 1500 broadcast live from the restaurant.

Brent Brommer showed up shortly before noon with a well-worn purple Moss jersey on to support the popular east metro restaurant. The Woodbury resident's opinion of the ex-Viking for his Tinucci's-related tirade?

"(Moss') behavior is pretty much inexcusable," he said. "I have a word for it. I call him a jerk-o-holic."

Friends Tom Nelson and Brian Burgoyne drove from Burnsville and Savage, respectively, for Friday's event. While they waited in a line for a table that, by 12:30 p.m., stretched nearly an hour, the Vikings fans said they wanted to support a restaurant they hadn't been to in more than 20 years in light of Moss' comments.

"I'm glad it's turning out for good," Nelson said.

Tinucci said the event was just meant to poke a little fun at the situation.

"We're having fun," he said on-air with ESPN 1500 hosts Pat Reusse and Phil Mackey, taking a break from bussing tables in the busy dining room. "He was wrong; we were just doing our job...It could have been a lobster buffet and he would have said the same thing."

The discarded Moss jerseys will be donated to the Boys and Girls Club of Nashville, Tenn., the home of the Tennessee Titans team that signed Moss after his exit from Minnesota.

On Sunday, the positive pub continued for the local restaurant when it was featured on ESPN's nationally-televised 'NFL Countdown' program after Vikings owner Zygi Wilf told media his owner's box spread for the Vikings home game agaist Arizona would feature the catering of none other than, you guessed it, Tinucci's.

- Hank Long contributed to this report.