Owner, manager of popular NYC pizza joint Grimaldi’s charged with failure to pay employees: DA’s office

exterior view of the front of Grimaldi's restaurant in day time
Dean Moses

The owner and manager of a popular Manhattan pizzeria allegedly denied their staff tens of thousands of dollars in wages, District Attorney Alvin Bragg said Thursday. 

Anthony Piscina and Frank Santora, who own and manage, respectively, the Grimaldi’s Pizzeria at Limelight on 6th Avenue in Chelsea, are facing charges for allegedly stealing more than $20,000 in wages from at least seven workers, according to the DA’s office. 

Workers who never received their wages at Grimaldi’s include pizza makers, salad preparers, dishwashers and those in other positions at the well-known establishment, Bragg said during a March 21 press conference. In addition to withholding workers’ salaries, Piscina allegedly bounced checks, used apps to only pay workers a fraction of what they earned, and stood them up for appointments to “settle” owed wages. 

“Instead of following the law and paying their employees what they earned fair and square, we allege that Grimaldi’s gave their employees paychecks that bounced, convinced their employees to continue working through partial payments via financial apps, made appointments to settle wages that were owed and then never showed up,” Bragg said.

The DA announced the charges alongside displays of blown-up images of text messages sent from workers to their employers asking, and in many cases begging, for their pay.  

The images include texts that read things such as, “I sure need money to pay my rent please,” “Hi sir. Can you pay me my payment today,” and “Please, I have an emergency. My grandmother died.” 

Bragg also alleges that the employees, when they did get paid, were getting less than New York City’s required minimum wage of $15 an hour. One Grimaldi’s busboy was promised just $10 an hour, Bragg said. 

“Even so, we allege that despite this already unlawful promise, the defendants never paid this employee a dime to this day,” Bragg said. “He is still owed approximately $8,000.”

A delivery worker outside the Grimaldi's Pizzeria in Chelsea
A delivery worker outside the Grimaldi’s Pizzeria in ChelseaPhoto by Dean Moses

Both Piscina and Santora are being charged with scheming to defraud and seven counts of failure to pay wages in accordance with the labor law, Bragg said. 

“What may appear to some as a relatively low dollar amount, can have life-changing consequences when stolen from someone making minimum wage,” Bragg said. 

When amNewYork Metro called the restaurant Thursday afternoon for comment, the phone lines were disconnected. 

Outside the Grimaldi’s location in Chelsea, however, a customer had plenty to say when learning of the charges.

Amanda Lemus called the allegations “messed up.” She was surprised to find out what had happened the same day she was there.

“When I went in, it seemed kind of cool,” she said. “It was chill in there, so I wouldn’t think that this was a business that would be doing something like that.” 

She added that she would not go back to dine at the establishment in the future. 

Grimaldi’s previous run-ins with the law

The Manhattan pizza joint has a history of making bad headlines when it comes to money. In 2018, it temporarily closed after it was seized for unpaid taxes, according to Eater New York, and in 2016, the business owed the state $122,000 in taxes. 

Both defendants were released on their own recognizance. 

According to the Grimaldi’s website, there are multiple locations of the restaurant across the country — including a flagship spot in Dumbo, Brooklyn.

With reporting by Dean Moses

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