DIRKSEN FEDERAL COURTHOUSE — A judge has ordered the owner of a well-known Chicago eatery and his relatives to find a way to end a simmering family legal feud.
U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman said Tuesday that the owner of Pompei Pizza in Little Italy needs to settle his differences with his brother and nephew, who opened a Lakeview restaurant named Pompeii Xpress.
"Parents and grandparents must be turning in their graves over this," Gettleman said.
The Little Italy eatery was opened by Luigi Davino back in 1909. Pompei's website said the name was used because the restaurant was near Our Lady of Pompeii Church, which still holds services at 1224 W. Lexington St.
The restaurant closed locations over the years — it's now at 1531 W. Taylor St. — and ownership was passed through the family.
This summer, current owner Ralph Davino sued his brother Roger and Roger's son, Jonathan, when a new restaurant, Pompeii Xpress, opened at 2931 N. Broadway. Ralph Davino claimed the name violated the trademark on the Pompei Pizza name. The restaurant also has a location in suburban Orland Park.
Earlier this month, Gettleman ordered Pompeii Xpress to change its name temporarily as the case plays out in court. Currently, "Davino's Xpress" has been handwritten on a sign and taped to the front door of the east Lakeview restaurant, while the word "Pompeii" has been crossed out on the menus.
Thomas Rosenwein, lawyer for Pompeii Xpress, told the judge that the Lakeview eatery is "not doing well." He was unsure whether business declined because of the name change.
He argued the restaurant should be able to change its name back to Pompeii Xpress and requested an end to the temporary restraining order. Roger Davino claims a handshake agreement gave him partial claim to the Pompeii name and allowed him to give permission to his son to use it.
But Pompei Pizza's lawyers said Roger Davino's name never appears on trademark documentation. They say that Roger Davino isn't technically an owner of the Lakeview restaurant.
Meanwhile, the judge was puzzled by the fact that Ralph Davino did nothing to stop an unrelated business in Arlington Heights from using the Pompei name for nearly 30 years.
"That almost defies belief," Gettleman said.
But the basic facts of the case are still in dispute, so the judge decided there were too "many inconsistencies on both sides" to lift the temporary restraining order.
Gettleman said the lawsuit is unnecessarily taking up legal resources and "strongly encouraged" both sets of lawyers to "take a deep breath," get some coffee and figure out how to end the case as soon as possible.
Attorneys agreed to sit down after the hearing. Gettleman asked for the discovery process to finish in the next two months.
"We're reaching the saturation point here," he said.
The next status hearing is Oct. 11.