As reported last week, Nolana Pizzeria, the recent reboot of Racines in Old Montreal, underwent a sudden, somewhat hostile change in management on April 23. Now the man at the centre of the dispute has made a statement on Facebook that denounces the MTL Cuisine restaurant group and, specifically, restaurateurs Jorge Da Silva and Jorge Da Silva, Jr.
Agostino De Riggi is the designer behind such MTL Cuisine projects as Les 400 Coups, Helena, Bar Commerce, Tapas 24, and more. Or was, before his relationship with the Da Silvas dissolved last month. In a message sent to Eater on January 18, Da Silva, Jr. wrote that Nolana "is represented by our partners, Agostino De Riggi from ADR Design (the design firm in which we often work with) and his son, Gian Paolo De Riggi who is the manager." Da Silva, Jr. confirmed last week, however, that the father and son were no longer part of Nolana because MTL Cuisine was "suing the De Riggi family for both criminal matters (theft, harassment and threats) as well as civil matters (defamation and several issues concerning malfunctions regarding design/furniture in several of our establishments)." The extent of the so-called criminal matters cited by Da Silva, Jr. is unclear—no criminal charges have been filed against the De Riggis.
Agostino De Riggi's statement effectively contradicts Da Silva, Jr. The designer and restaurateur hopeful alleges that he spent $130,000 to build Nolana, sans salary, and that the concept was largely his from the start. The name Nolana, apparently, is a reference to De Riggi's hometown Nola, a municipality close to Naples. De Riggi alleges, as well, that MTL Cuisine's restaurants have "the most complaints" at the Commission des normes du travail (Eater has filed a request for information to verify this claim). Here is De Riggi's statement, reprinted and edited for clarity, with permission.
I have never stolen, harassed or threatened anyone. My son, Gian Paolo, and I developed and operated Nolana Pizzeria in partnership with the Da Silvas (MTL Cuisine). On April 23 2015, I was served by bailiff a summons ordering us to evacuate the premises immediately. We were and still are being wrongfully accused of having stolen money that belonged to the restaurant.
The total shock I was in is still to this day indescribable. I had invested 130,000 dollars of hard earned money into developing the concept with my son Gian Paolo. We worked seven days a week for three months to make Nolana Pizzeria one of the most talked about restaurants in the city. To this day, I did not take a single pay for myself after working seven days per week, morning and evening shift, because first and foremost I wanted to ensure a healthy growth for my business and my employees.
How did I get into this mess? I trusted the Da Silvas with friendship. This partnership was started on the basis of a friendship. And the Da Silvas cruelty does not end there. They tried to get me arrested on the basis of unjust accusations. Their reputation precedes them. They are the restaurant group with the most complaints to Commission des normes du travail by employees being wrongfully treated. Their bullying has to stop. They should not be allowed to threaten people into silence for the way they mistreat everyone. Join us and speak out....
The dispute between the Da Silvas and De Riggis is now in the hands of lawyers. Stay tuned for more details as they become available.