Grimaldi’s owner Frank Ciolli lashed out at reports that his beloved, tourist-filled, Sinatra-loving pizzeria is about to be evicted from its spot under the Brooklyn Bridge.
The Wall Street Journal first reported that the DUMBO coal-burning pizza staple faces eviction at a court hearing on Friday over $44,000 in back rent.
But Ciolli told us that the money’s all there — and that his Florida-based landlord actually refused to accept his August rent payment and a security deposit on a new lease because she’s mad that he got a few Department of Sanitation violations earlier this year.
“I don’t owe her any rent [as the Wall Street Journal reported],” Ciolli said. “We’re waiting until Friday to give the landlady whatever the total is. We’re happy to serve Brooklyn and we’re not going anywhere.”
At the hearing, the owner of the Grimaldi’s building, Dorothy Waxman, is expected to ask a Supreme Court judge to evict the pizza hub regardless of whether Ciolli pays.
This isn’t the first time that the Ciolli family has faced a shutdown for not paying up. In 2008, the taxman closed the shop down for a few hours after Ciolli fell behind in as much as $165,000 of unpaid taxes. That dispute was settled within a day, and Ciolli said that he expects the same thing on Friday.
“What are they gonna do, move in another pizzeria?” Ciolli said. “It’s not gonna be Grimaldi’s. They’re gonna have an empty store. My rent’s gone from $3,000 to $8,000 a month since we opened [in 1990], and yet my pies are the same price. Where else ya gonna get that?”
Still, local business owners said that accruing interest on rent and paying at the last minute is just the way Ciolli plays the game — and with all that cash (no cards, please!) from those long lines down the block every day of the week, it seems to work.
“It’s how Frank works,” said Peter Thristino, owner of Pete’s Downtown restaurant just a couple storefronts down from Grimaldi’s. “But this guy doesn’t actually wanna leave, and with this kind of cash, the landlord doesn’t really want him to leave either. He’ll pay up.”