On Sunday, Mitt and Ann Romney stopped by the Tin Fish in St. Lucie, FL for salmon, shrimp and scallops, and before taking a picture behind the bar, Joe Melluso wiped sweat off Mitt’s face. And wiped. And wiped. And wiped.
"I looked up at him, and he was all sweaty, and when he backed away, he got a piece of paper stuck on his lip. Well I said: 'He might be our next president, and I can't leave that on his face.'"
“Well I think at first, he was like ‘Oh my God. Thank you.’ You can see in his eyes. And then when it went on it was like ‘Some guy is wiping my face. This is taking way too long. Stop it.’ It was two different kinds of emotions. You can see it when they slow down the video,” he said.
Since that awkward moment, Melluso's brush with Romney has been talked about on CNN, Late Night with Jay Leno and other shows and networks.
Saturday Night Live and The Late Show with David Letterman gave him calls Wednesday, he said.
Melusso said he enjoyed cooking the Romneys lunch, and has enjoyed becoming the butt of jokes in the news and late-night television. His favorite thus far is an imitation by CNN’s Jeanne Moos.
15 minutes of fame does come with its draw backs. False rumors have emerged since Sunday, he said.
“Somebody said I was going to sell the napkin on Ebay, and another person said I was adding to my personal collection of sweaty items,” Melluso said.
Melluso and his business partner Roberta Hepburn, who first met in a La Jolla restaurant, opened the first Tin Fish at the end of the Imperial Beach Pier in 1999.
Since then the business has expanded to 13 locations in California, Minnesota, Indiana and Florida.
Melluso was most recently in Imperial Beach and San Diego to help open a new location under the Oceanside Pier.
The Tin Fish has locations in IB, Oceanside, Liberty Station and next to Petco Park in the Gaslamp Quarter downtown.
Melluso's face wipe wasn't the first strange encounter with a Florida business owner in the presidential campaign to make the Secret Service hold their breath. Last month, a pizza restaurant owner lifted President Obama off the ground with a bear hug.