A new lawsuit is claiming that the short-lived but well-reviewed Roman pizzeria La Rossa — which touted food from famed Italian pizzaiolo Stefano Callegari — was a total sham.
A shareholder, who reportedly dished out $500,000 for the Soho pizza restaurant that closed after seven months, alleges in the suit that the whole La Rossa business was a shady financial scheme, the Post first reported.
Francesco Zanghi is claiming that the pizzeria’s owners, Piergraziano Ritella and Alessandro Vacca, tricked him into investing half a million dollars in the business, which was marketed to him as a chain backed by Callegari that would eventually expand to Miami and Dubai, according to the lawsuit. But Zanghi claims the owners funneled the money back to Italy, according to the suit filed in Manhattan federal court in June.
Callegari, the famous Italian pizza maker best known in the U.S. for creating the trapizzino, isn’t named as a defendant but could be added later, the Post reports. The Italian chef tells the Post he wasn’t aware of the restaurant’s finances, as he was brought on as a consultant, not an owner. “I was naive, I worked for people who ended up fighting among themselves, and in the end they didn’t do what was promised,” he says.
The restaurant opened at 267 Lafayette Street last December, but in July it was seized by New York City marshals for nonpayment of rent. La Rossa owed $46,000 in back rent and over $44,000 in state taxes, according to court papers obtained by the Post.
La Rossa opened in a bright corner space in Soho with a traditional Roman pizza menu created by Callegari, including his signature cacio e pepe pie. Eater critic Robert Sietsema declared La Rossa’s margherita pizza one of the city’s best during a visit, when he saw Callegari behind the counter making pies.