Fuoco di Napoli opened this past December on Pharr Road in Buckhead and has had anything but a good first few months. The restaurant was initially helmed by Enrico Liberato, the pizzaioli from Naples who had previously worked at Fritti, Antico Pizza and later Max's Coal Oven Pizzeria downtown. Last month Liberato was booked on a number of charges including aggravated assault, possession of marijuana and an unknown immigration offense.
The immigration offense may have in fact been quite serious as last week I received a tip that Liberato had been deported. Luckily, Liberato was training the staff on the art of pizza making and had built a custom oven for the restaurant. Enrico had partnered with the McDowell family of Carrollton, Georgia for the restaurant and surely they hoped to continue the business in his absence.
Now, with Liberato out of the kitchen, Antico Pizza Napoletana has filed a federal "intellectual property - trademark" lawsuit against Fuoco di Napoli. The case was filed earlier this month and names Fuoco Di Napoli, LLC Dennis H. McDowell, Jackie McDowell, Lori G. McDowell and Dino McDowell as defendants but does not name Enrico Liberato.
I'm curious to know what "intellectual property - trademark" Fuoco is violating as other than an odd location and the use of San Marzano tomato sauce & imported flour, Fuoco seems to be just another Neapolitan style pizzeria.
In related news, brothers Hugh and Jason Connerty plan to open Ammazza, a Neapolian style pizzeria this June on Edgewood Avenue in the Old Forth Ward. Both Hugh and Jason previously worked for Antico Equity Group LLC., a company that bought development rights to Antico Pizza Napoletana, but the project later stalled. Though the brothers claim they are not creating an "Antico copy", this recent Fuoco lawsuit should serve as a warning to those looking to open pizzerias with persons previously involved with Antico.
What do you make of all this legal wrangling on the part of Antico Pizza Napoletana? Do you think Fuoco will survive this latest blow to its business? Do you think the brothers Connerty will also face legal action or do you believe their concept will be totally different? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.