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John 'Cha Cha' Ciarcia Dies, Ben's Best Lawsuit, and More Intel

Vic's Pizza is closing after 45 years in business, plus more restaurant news and gossip from around NYC.

[The dining room at Bergen Hill, a Carroll Garden restaurant that serves some very good cocktails and seafood dishes. Strong choice for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.]
[The dining room at Bergen Hill, a Carroll Garden restaurant that serves some very good cocktails and seafood dishes. Strong choice for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.]
Daniel Krieger

— Restaurateur John "Cha Cha" Ciarcia — the "Unofficial Mayor of Mulberry Street" — died of cancer last week at the age of 75. Ciarcia was the proprietor of Cha Cha’s in Bocca Al Lupo and Alleva Dairy on Mulberry Street, as well as the now-defunct Cha Cha's bar in Coney Island. Ciarcia was Tony Danza's former boxing manager, and he had small parts in Goodfellas and The Sopranos. He was also the best man at Danny DeVito's wedding. As a tribute to the restaurateur, the lights will be dimmed along Mulberry Street this evening.

Three dishwashers at Ben's Best Deli in Rego Park are suing the restaurant over alleged wage violations. The employees claim that they received less than minimum wage and did not get overtime. The suit seeks damages of more than twice what the workers say they are owed in back wages.

Vic's Pizza on the corner of Essex and Grand streets is closing after service next Monday. The pizzeria has been in business for 45 years. The landlord, Interboro Realty Management, plans to demolish the low-rise building soon and replace it with a six-story structure. The pizzeria's owner, Victor Mendez, tells DNAinfo that he was hoping to reopen elsewhere in the neighborhood, but rents are about double what he was paying, so his plans are still up in the air.

— Next month, former Philippe restaurateur Stratis Morfogen will open a new Asian restaurant in The Limelight called Jue Lan Club.  Lelaña Fulton, formerly of Dirty French, is joining the team as sommelier along with Natalie Tapken. Lure Fishbar FOH veteran Robert Collins and chef Oscar Toro are also part of the opening team.

Michael Lombardozzi, a former bartender at One if By Land, Two if By Sea, is planning a new tiki bar in Bushwick called Dromedary Bar. In addition to tropical drinks, the bar will serve things like pu-pu platters, spam arancini, and deviled eggs topped with fried crickets. Dromedary Bar is slated to open on December 15.

— Shauna Lyon of Tables for Two files on Sushi Azabu/Azabu in Tribeca this week.  The upstairs experience doesn't quite match what's going on down below: "At Azabu, the same sushi you can get downstairs seems too expensive for the casual setting (sashimi plates start at fifty dollars), and the kitchen dishes are hit or miss (baked crab was unpleasantly fishy). But the ladies out on the town, finance types, and soba hounds who come here can eat well, if they order right: uncomplicated, naturally umami-rich dishes like Japanese eggplant, fresh tofu with plentiful uni, and excellent house-made soba noodles."

A self-service coffee shop opened at the corner of 52nd Street and Madison Avenue yesterday. Customers at Bustler Coffee punch in their orders, collect their drinks, and pay at the register. The website notes: "We give guests the freedom to quickly customize the beverage of their choice exactly to their taste -- without waiting to be served by a barista." Here's a peek at the set-up:

— Last week, broker Christopher Bond told Page Six that celebrity detective Bo Dietl failed to give him the reservation at Rao's that he bought at a charity auction. And now a financial advisor named Julian Rubinstein says that he forked over $2,500 at another charity auction to enjoy a meal at former Ambassador Charles Gargano's table at the East Harlem restaurant, and he was also denied a reservation. Rubinstein tells the Post: "It is a shame that these guys donate the table for recognition, then refuse to honor their commitment." Gargano says: "This guy did not buy the table [from me]. He bought it from someone else."

— And finally, here's how to make Black Seed-style bagels at home: