A new Italian restaurant in Chevy Chase has been the subject of much debate—not because of its food but due to its name, I’m Eddie Cano. There is nobody named Eddie Cano involved with the place; it’s actually a clever/annoying way to force patrons to pronounced the word “Americano” in an Italian accent (say “I’m Eddie Cano” fast and you’ll see). The name has ignited both ire and admiration. So who’s right? We turned to Joseph Szala, principal at Vigor Branding, for some expert insight. His Atlanta-based restaurant-branding firm specializes in strategic naming for clients around the country, including Arlington’s Badaro. Here are his thoughts:
The Risks: For Szala, the biggest mistake you can make when naming a restaurant is to fall back on overly familiar structures like “blank and blank” or possessives, so I’m Eddie Cano avoided the most obvious blunders. On the other hand, names that rely on wordplay have the potential to feel tired and hokey. While a gimmicky name won’t necessarily turn diners off, it could be an issue if the experience isn’t great overall. Szala also warns that playing around with stereotypical accents could be tricky territory. “We live in a climate where we’re not quite sure what’s going to flip that switch of someone being angry or mad,” he says.
The Result: Pulling off this particular name had a high degree of difficulty, but Szala says it immediately elicited a chuckle. “What made me smile about it was that initial spark where it clicks. When you say it, you actually sound like someone with an accent. It was a bit of a trick.” Although being forced to speak in an accent is exactly what some people find annoying about the name, Szala likes that it feels like an inside joke—something you have to be in-the-know to understand. The name also follows Szala’s core tenets for naming a restaurant: “If you can get people’s attention, make them glad they looked, and make it something they remember after the fact, that right there is magic. And I think this has the beginnings of that.”
The Verdict: On a scale of one (fireable offense) to 10 (wishing he had thought of the name), we asked Szala where he would rank I’m Eddie Cano. Sorry, Cano-phobes: He believes this one is a winner: “It’s a ten for me,” he says. “I really love it. I think it’s great.”