Grimaldi’s won the battle, but pizza lovers have lost the war.
The owner of the building housing the famous DUMBO pizzeria was ordered by a judge today to accept late rent payments and allow the coal-oven joint to remain at its Old Fulton Street location — but the landlord says that she will kick out the late-paying restaurant when its lease expires in November, 2011.
But today’s news — the stay of execution by Judge Robin Shears — was as satsifying as a Grimaldi’s pie for owner Frank Ciolli.
“There is a God!” he said as he left the Downtown courtroom. “We’re staying in Brooklyn. Let’s go have some pizza.”
The decision came as a surprise to the landlord’s son, Mark Waxman, and his attorney, Darryl Vernon, because a 2008 contract between the parties stipulated that Grimaldi’s would be evicted if Ciolli was ever late on payments again.
And he has been late — multiple times this year, in fact. And in 2008, Ciolli was briefly shut down by the state due to $165,000 in unpaid taxes, though the restaurant was quickly reopened.
Despite Ciolli’s win on Friday, Waxman has said that he and his mom will not renew the Grimaldi’s lease and will take control of the location’s rare coal-burning oven — which is valuable because such ovens are illegal except where they existed before the city ban.
“We are looking at other [tenants] who will continue to make pizza and be good for the community,” Waxman, son of the 87-year-old landlord Dorothy Waxman, said at the hearing.
Ciolli admitted that he was late on payments in July — a total of around $66,000, which includes replenishing Ciolli’s security deposit that he lost in civil court cases in 2008. According to the settlement that year, the late payments would justify Ciolli’s eviction, but the judge disagreed.
Ciolli was calm during the hearing, but things got heated — and even physical — between him and Waxman during a recess. The two had given their cases, and Ciolli was livid, pointing a finger in Waxman’s face and yelling.
“This is a stab in the back — this is bulls—t!” Ciolli yelled, eye-to-eye with Waxman. “You don’t know who you’re dealin’ with. But you’ll find out soon enough. You’re buying yourself a lawsuit.”
Then Ciolli turned and ripped a camera — which was capturing the circus — out of a reporter’s hand before he went back into the courtroom as other reporters gasped at the brazen move.