State officials shut down Grimaldi’s on Wednesday, saying the internationally renowned DUMBO pizzeria owed $150,000 in taxes — but the cash-only joint reopened to cheers a few hours later as its owner downplayed the whole thing as just an “accounting error.”
Around noon on Wednesday, officials from the state Department of Taxation and Finance “came in and pretty much seized the property,” a police source said.
A tax spokesman told Newsday that the restaurant and its parent company, Patabbe, Inc., owe sales and withholding taxes dating back to 2006.
But owner Frank Ciolli told The Brooklyn Paper that the ordeal was just “something that got screwed up and we sorted it out.”
“I’m not at liberty to give you details because my accountant would be upset with me,” Ciolli added. “It was some kind of accounting error. People make mistakes.”
“It was a couple of hours’ interruption” and “no big deal,” he said.
But it was a big deal to Grimaldi’s fans.
All afternoon, the restaurant’s gates were down and three shiny new locks held them in place. A handwritten sign on the door read, “Electrical Problem: We will be open at 4 pm. Sorry for any inconvenience,” and an answering machine message offered the same details.
By 5 pm, a dozen starving tourists gathered outside the still-shuttered joint, growing increasingly cranky, annoyed and eager for a bite of the legendary coal-oven pies.
“My girlfriend is visiting from France — I love coming here, and I wanted to impress her,” said Marlon, who lives in Manhattan and had been waiting for nearly half an hour.
“Grimaldi’s is our usual spot for pizza,” he added, declining to give his last name.
Deliverance came minutes later when a manager showed up and unlocked the gates. Patrons cheered, and the manager, who gave his name only as Victor, said, “We’ll open in five minutes, folks.”
He gave no further information, saying he was too busy getting the restaurant ready for the dinner rush.
Indeed, moments later, smoke once again bellowed from the restaurant’s smokestack and workers were busy kneading the famous dough inside.
Patrons filed in about 10 minutes later.
Later, Ciolli was happy to see everything back in order.
“We’re okay with the state; they’re very nice,” Ciolli said. “Things don’t get filed properly or on time, and you have a difficulty. I don’t see any harassment at all.”
A state tax department spokesman could not be reached for comment.