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Grimaldi's Founder Can Open New Pizzeria Next to Rival, Judge Rules

By Alan Neuhauser | December 24, 2012 3:02pm | Updated on December 24, 2012 3:21pm
 A slice from Grimaldi's in Chelsea.
A slice from Grimaldi's in Chelsea.
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DNAinfo/Tara Kyle

BROOKLYN — This block's big enough for two Grimaldi's.

That's what the Queens County Supreme Court ruled last week in an ongoing feud between the founder of the famed Grimaldi's Pizzeria in DUMBO and the mozzarella magnate who bought the business 14 years ago.

The ruling clears the way for Patsy Grimaldi, the pizzeria's founder, to open a new marinara mecca — with a new name — in the longtime pizzeria's original 19 Old Fulton St. location, next door to the Grimaldi's now run by Frank Ciolli, who owns the name Grimaldi's and sought to bar the new pizza joint from opening.

"There is no proof that [Grimaldi] took any…steps to actively solicit any of the plaintiff's customers," Queens County Supreme Court Justice Augustus Agate wrote in his Dec. 19 decision. Instead, Patsy Grimaldi's new restaurant, called Juliana's Pizza, is simply "healthy competition" for his former pizza joint, Agate said.

Ciolli, the plaintiff, bought Grimaldi's from Patsy Grimaldi for $500,000 in 1998, records show. The restaurant, famous for its pizza baked in a coal-fired oven, remained there for the next 13 years, until Ciolli became embroiled in a legal fight with the property's landlord in 2011 and moved the pizzeria to the next-door space at 1 Front St.

Earlier this year, court records state, Ciolli learned that Grimaldi planned to open Juliana's Pizza at the old Grimaldi's space, and Ciolli filed suit in September, seeking an injunction that would stop the restaurant from opening.

Ciolli asserted that "when he purchased the pizzeria…he purchased not only the actual assets of the business but all of the commercial goodwill as well," referring to the pizzeria's reputation and its customers' loyalty, Agate summarized in his ruling.

Therefore, Ciolli argued, by opening Juliana's at the old Grimaldi's location, Grimaldi would be stealing the goodwill — the customers and reputation — Ciolli had bought in 1998.

The terms of the sale did prohibit Grimaldi from opening another pizzeria within a 3-mile radius of Grimaldi's, but that restriction expired at the end of 2008. So, Agate ruled that the court could not stop Grimaldi from opening his pizzeria.

Juliana's launched earlier this month and is now open every day at noon.