San Matteo Panuozzo Closes After Landlord Says Fuggedabout Pizza

IMG_0050Nicole Guzzardi

San Matteo Panuozzo couldn’t cut it on St. Marks Place. Literally. The pizza-dough-sandwich shop has closed (and, contrary to a sign in the window, won’t be reopening) because it wasn’t allowed to serve proper pies.

Vincenzo Scardino, an owner of San Matteo Pizza and Espresso Bar on the Upper East Side, said that he and is two partners decided to close its downtown spin-off at 121 St. Marks because the landlord wouldn’t allow them to sell pizza, fearing it would interfere with the business of his other tenant, Nino’s, a couple of doors down.

“They thought it would take business from the guy on the corner, even though our product is completely different,” said Mr. Scardino. The restaurateur added that San Matteo had always planned to start serving pizza, just like its uptown location does, once it obtained its liquor license. But when the owners went back and asked their landlord about it, he put the kibosh on the plan.

IMG_0060 Nino’s

Apparently, that came as a surprise. “In the beginning, when we signed the lease, they said pizza wouldn’t be a problem,” said Mr. Scardino. “But [when] we spoke to them again after we opened, we asked them after we got the liquor license, they said no.”

The landlord is singing a different tune. Eric Mohan, property manager of Avenue A at St. Marks Association, said the owners of San Matteo Panuozzo never voiced plans to sell pizza, and instead said they would stick to the oversized panini, made from pizza dough, known as panuozzi. “When they took the place, they knew about it,” Mr. Mohan said, referring to the pan ban. “They were trying to just open a sandwich shop, which they did.”

Mr. Mohan believes the owners of San Matteo decided later in the game they wanted to sell pizza. The landlord put its foot down because tenants are not allowed to sell competing products.

Mr. Scardino said some folks from Italy will be signing the lease within the next two days and plan to open a cafe. Meanwhile, the owners of San Matteo are looking for another spot, but definitely not in the East Village. It’s safe to say the ordeal has left them feeling a little bit burned.