Many of us been have wondering about the fate of the Pontillo's restaurant in Batavia ever since the doors closed in November, followed soon after by the news that the business owes more than $112,000 in back state taxes. Few could argue that they had one of the best lunch buffets around.
Owner Sam Pontillo has been assuring people all along that the restaurant would open up again... soon... even if he had to find some other location in the city to do it. Initially, Sam told the Daily News that the restaurant was closing down for renovations and would re-open in a couple weeks. Of course, that didn't come to pass, and in the latest article in the Daily, he's quoted as saying: "people will be able to get a Pontillo's pizza in Batavia by April 1."
Sam's brother John Pontillo spoke with us by phone this afternoon. John is currently living and working at a country club in Minnesota, where he has been since his unceremonious dismissal from the family business by his two brothers, Sam and Paul, around this time last year.
Most of you will recognize the name John from what you have read in the Daily's coverage. Most recently, for example, Sam spoke of John when he told Joanne Beck that he "had to pay the tab of his brothers' neglect."
"They left an unpaid tab. Once again, I'm footing the bill," he said Thursday.
Those taxes were the responsibility of siblings John and Paul, who ran the Batavia Pontillo's Pizza & Pasta until Sam Pontillo closed it in early November, Sam said. He bought his current Le Roy Pontillo's site in 2007.
In every article in the Daily News, John has been accused by his brother Sam of being responsible for "neglecting" the finances and failing to pay the taxes for the business in Batavia. Sam also told the newspaper that he had no foreknowledge of the unpaid taxes.
That's just not true, John told us today. Sam knew about the tax problems all along, and this wasn't the first time that it happened, he said.
Back in 2006, both restaurants, in LeRoy and Batavia, were cited by the state for owing back taxes in excess of $350,000. At that time, Sam was in charge of all the operations, says John. "He was president of both locations."
Later on in 2006, it was decided that the Batavia and LeRoy locations would be incorporated seperately as Sam's Tomato Pies and LeRoy Dough Boys, respectively. On the articles of incorporation for the LeRoy restaurant, Sam is listed as owner and as president. His brother Paul is listed as secretary. As for the Batavia restaurant, Sam's mother, Elizabeth, is listed as owner, Sam as secretary and Paul as president.
John is nowhere named as an officer of either company. He insists that he was only ever a paid employee like everyone else who worked there. That he was fired so precipitously last February only attests to that.
"They say that it happened on my watch," said John. "I was never an officer of the company. I was just an hourly employee. That's all I ever was."
John could not comment in detail due to the pending litigation between the brothers to determine who will take over the Batavia restaurant. They are also waiting to execute the will of their mother, Elizabeth, which could help decide some of the details of who owns the rights to the name: Pontillo's.
John did say, however, that the brothers need to move fast to come to an agreement, because the mortgage company, which has not been paid since Novemeber, could foreclose on the property by the end of the month.