Owner claims shuttered Mamma Lucia restaurant victim of city harassment

Egidio Sementilli shut down his restaurant after nine years of serving up heaping portions on Pennyfield Avenue.
Photo by Aracelis Batista

Amid a mountain of protested fines from the Health Department, one Locust Point italian eatery has been forced to shut its doors for good.

Mamma Lucia’s on Pennyfield Avenue shuttered in December after owner Egidio Sementilli was unable to renew an expired permit with the City Department of Health, with whom he has been fighting for years over a backlog of fines that he refuses to pay.

Bilked in Fines

Sementilli said he’s been slapped with over $30,000 in fines since Mayor Bloomberg took office. But he’s charged for years that the fines are unpredictable and have nothing to do with how clean his restaurant truly is.

The restaurant owner —who is also a political activist who has run for local office in the borough— filed a $150 million class action lawsuit against the city in June 2013 along with nearly 40 other Bronx small business owners who allege that the Health Dept. fines under Mayor Bloomberg were an unlawful revenue-raising scheme. The shopowners are still waiting their day in court, after the City tried to throw out their original suit.

Sementilli said he was stymied when he tried to negotiate a long-term payment plan for his fines with the city. But he wasn’t surprised at the cool reception, given the bad blood already brewing.

“Did they do what they did because I was also part of a lawsuit against them?” he said. “I’ll let you answer that one.”

Long-time nabe spot

Hungry locals from nearby SUNY Maritime Academy will now have to look elsewhere for the heaping portions of Italian specialties that made Mamma Lucia’s a nabe staple for nine years.

“The thing I truly will miss are the people that came in here every day,” he said. “They really became part of my family.”

Sementilli said he’s optimistic that another restaurant will take over the space. Much of the cooking equipment, tables and chairs are up for sale, he said.

Locust Point’s locals are accustomed to getting their eats at the location, which has been a restaurant for as long as property owner Ralph Malusi can remember.

“It’s unfortunate that he couldn’t work it out with the city, but somebody will come along and renovate the place,” said Malusi, an attorney based in Manhattan. “I’m sure there will be another restaurant there by the time the year is over.”

Reach Reporter Ben Kochman at (718) 742–3394. E-mail him at bkochman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @benkochman.

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