Staggering debts -- to the government, bankers and suppliers -- appear to be what led to the closing of Batavia's most legendary pizzeria in November 2008.
At the time the restaurant closed, suppliers were possibly owed in the neighborhood of $220,000, according to a document obtained by The Batavian. In addition to those debts, there were unpaid mortgages exceeding $354,000 and taxes of more than $250,000 due.
Many of these debts, outside of the mortgage, which was amply paid off in foreclosure proceedings, appear to be unsettled to this day, including more than $10,000 owed to a local funeral home that handled arrangements for Elizabeth "Betty" Pontillo following her death on Aug. 5, 2008.
In total, debts associated either with Pontillo's Pizzeria at 500 E. Main St., Batavia, or with Betty's estate, exceeded $850,000.
Disputes over those debts -- how they occurred, who is responsible, and who allegedly stole what or lied to whom -- has pitted brother against brother in the Pontillo family.
John and Paul have harsh words for Sam, and Sam isn't talking, but in previous news articles, he hasn't necessarily been kind to his siblings.
John, Paul and Sam are the sole surviving children of Salvatore ("Sam" Sr.) and Betty Pontillo (Daniel Pontillo died in 1957 and Elizabeth Mullen died in 2003; her son, John Mullen, is an heir to the estate).
Salvatore founded Pontillo's Pizzeria in Batavia with his brothers in 1947. It inspired scores of other pizzerias, including a chain founded by Salvatore's brother, Anthony, in Rochester that bears the Pontillo's name.
Last week, Sam, working with business associates from Rochester, opened a Pontillo's Pizzeria at the old Batavia location.
Both John and Paul say they resent how Sam is being seen as some kind of hero in Batavia when he's the one who brought down, according to them, the original Pontillo's, especially when, according to John, Sam cheated a number of local business owners out of tens of thousands of dollars.
Even as Sam enjoys a busy opening week, he faces the possible loss of the Le Roy location. Genesee County records show property taxes on those parcels haven't been paid in nearly three years. According to County Treasurer Scott German, foreclosure procedures could start on July 1 if the debts remain outstanding.
It's also not clear if the new owners of Pontillo's Pizzeria in Batavia can legally operate a restaurant under that name. The federal trademark for "Pontillo's" is owned by the estate of Anthony Pontillo, but both John and Paul contend that rights to the name in Batavia are still owned by the estate of Betty Pontillo.
Whether Sam is part owner in the new business is also unclear. John said Sam has represented himself as a part owner; Paul is convinced Sam is nothing more than a salaried employee.
Tom Masaschi, a Rochester developer who purchased the Batavia Pontillo's location for $400,000 last December, and is reportedly one of the investors in the new business, has not returned calls to The Batavian.
On Sunday, when told John and Paul had spoken with The Batavian, Sam declined an interview request for the third time.
"It's been a long 15 months," said a broadly smiling Sam as he stood at the walk-in counter of the Batavia Pontillo's, which was packed with customers. "I'm only looking forward now."