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Pontillo's brothers may head to court

By Philip Anselmo

Last week, The Batavian reported that Pontillo's Pizzeria owed in excess of $112,000 in state taxes. That report came on the heels of an article in the Daily News in which Sam Pontillo claimed that he closed the restaurant in order to make renovations and officially purchase the property. A second article appeared in the Daily a couple days after our post that further confounded an already ambiguous story. Since then, more information has become available that may help us to ask some better questions in the hopes of getting some better answers.

On October 31, a civil suit was filed in Genesee County in which all three Pontillo brothers were named. That suit was brought by Buffalo attorneys Amigone, Sanchez, Mattrey & Marshall LLP on behalf of the plaintiff: John Pontillo. Listed as defendants in that case are: Sam, Paul and Salvatore Pontillo. No other details of the case were available at the Office of the Genesee County Clerk, and we have so far been unable to contact any of the brothers. We had left messages for Sam Pontillo last week that were never returned.

A week later, on November 7, a mechanic's lien was filed with the county by Roy H. Turnbull Inc. againt the estate of Elizabeth Pontillo and Pontillo's Batavia Pizzeria Inc. in the amount of $1,181.29. No specifics were listed in the record.

Those are the most recent facts. A search earlier today revealed no new filings with the county. Let us now take a moment to review the news as it was reported in the Daily. We feel that there are some contradictions and ambiguities that may help to shed some light on the situation.

From the first article, which appeared on November 4:

(Sam) Pontillo was advised that it would be better to just close the shop down and then re-open under new ownership. He regrets that he had to cancel a pre-election night party ... But he had no choice, Pontillo said. He was told that renovations were to happen now.

Firstly, who "advised" Sam Pontillo to close and "told" him that renovations had to "happen now"? In the same article, Beck writes that: "Sam has been on site running the Batavia and Le Roy operations the last several years." So if he's running the place, who is telling him to close it? Secondly, what are these renovations that they cannot be postponed even a single day so that the restaurant could cater a local party?

What's most confusing, however, is that in this first article, Sam Pontillo claims responsibility for both operations, in Le Roy and in Batavia. He would have to be running the place in order to make the decision to close it down, right? But in the article that appeared in the Daily on November 7—after The Batavian broke the news that the Batavia restaurant owed some $112,000 in unpaid taxes to the state—Sam Pontillo is quoted as saying: "I was locked out of the whole operation. John and Paul worked there (in Batavia). John was operations manager." Doesn't that contradict the claim in the previous article that Sam has been running the place for "years"?

Joanne Beck writes:

It was only after (Sam Pontillo) started the paperwork to buy the city property that Sam Pontillo became fully aware of the tax situation, he said. He doesn't dispute that tax warrants have been filed by the state Finance Department and Genesee County Clerk's office against the family business, which includes Pontillo's Batavia Pizzeria, Inc. and Sam's Tomato Pies, Inc.

But he doesn't claim them as his, either. The business is still owned by his mother and was not run by Sam, he said.

What!? Does Sam Pontillo run the business or not? What does it mean to be "fully aware"? Could he have been "partially" aware? What would that have signified? How can Sam not claim the tax warrants filed against Sam's Tomato Pies?

It is also reported in the most recent Daily News article that: "Genesee County records did not show any outstanding tax warrants on the Le Roy Pontillo's." That's true. As Sam Pontillo himself says of the Le Roy location: "I don't owe one cent for this place."

But Pontillo's Le Roy Pizzeria Inc. has been named in a civil suit filed by the Workers' Compensation Board of the State of New York that was filed on October 20. The Board also filed a money judgement in the amount of $1,250 against the Le Roy operation. As for any outstanding tax warrants, there are none. Pontillo's Le Roy Pizzeria Inc. was, however, served with a tax warrant by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance in the amount of $700.63 in November, 2007. That was paid.

All in all, there are more questions than answers at this point, and I have yet to see a single car parked at the Batavia Pontillo's, which is supposed to be undergoing renovations right now. I guess we ought to take Sam Pontillo at his word when he says: "The remodeling won't be an obvious change that patrons will notice."

Howard B. Owens

I'm still scratching my head over Joanne calling the liens a "rumor" in her lede.

And rather amazed she didn't credit the news organization that broke the story.

Nov 12, 2008, 3:16pm Permalink
Lincoln DeCoursey

It looks like perhaps this business is experiencing some financial or organizational struggle and is not eager to publicize that. It's understandable. Right now they're closed for "renovations". That's good enough for me.

I truly hope for the family's sake that its organizational and/or tax issues can be worked out so that Pontillo's ovens can be brought back up to temperature. After all, we all support our local businesses and want to see them succeed, right?

In the interim, I wouldn't estimate this to be something that we really need to stop and stare at daily. The government will get what it's allegedly owed one way or another, about that we need not worry.

This isn't Watergate. Let's call off the 24/7 surveillance and leave the neighbors' garbage alone. It may get you a headline in Google's "Local News", but it's not Pulitzer Prize material. I think it's not the kind of notoriety you folks want. It's just my personal opinion.

Yes, other news organizations in town are treating this differently. It's probably not because they're lazy, or because they're in a conspiracy, or because they're embarrassed about getting scooped. It's probably editorial experience.

Otherwise I like this site. I enjoy having a home-based news outlet on the worldwide web. You guys are definitely eager to get the news out and it shows. Thanks for the effort.

Nov 13, 2008, 1:26am Permalink
Joe Callahan

I really like how Paul Pontillo has rarely been mentioned in the articles on this site or the newspaper. He was the one mainly responsible for the Batavia shop. Yeah Sam did stop by occasionally but Paul was the one that ran the day to day operations and was in control of the money. Which during this time was when some of the tax warrants were issued for.

Secondly, how does one brother shut down the store when all the brothers own it. They all have to agree and I do not see all 3 brothers agreeing to shut down so that the one brother can buy them out...There is definitely more to the story.

Nov 12, 2008, 3:49pm Permalink
Ron C Welker

City of Batavia icon thrown under the bus: PONTILLOS???


Cant we just let the owners settle their business in private? do we have to drag through the mud the details of a great family in distress?

Good Luck to the Pontillo family in opening once again the first and most famous Pizzaria in batavia.

Nov 12, 2008, 4:07pm Permalink
Philip Anselmo

Joe: I would very much appreciate learning more about Paul or hearing from him. All I know of him is what I read in the newspaper. I haven't been able to speak with any of the brothers. I called and left a message for Sam. He never called back. I called the number listed in the phone book for John. It was disconnected. I could find no number for Paul.

Nov 12, 2008, 4:18pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Pontillo's is a regional institution. What happens to it matters. What happens with Pontillo's effects more than just Sam, Paul and John. It's better to try to be a source of facts rather than let rumors spread throughout the community. People are going to talk, wonder and speculate. We would rather do our best to provide accurate information. It's an unfortunate situation, but keeping silent on it won't help matters.

Nov 12, 2008, 4:52pm Permalink

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