What's in a pizzeria's name? Money. While we seem to be past the days of having Famous Original Ray's, Ray's and/or Ray Bari Pizzas on every other corner that doesn't mean there aren't still fights over pizzeria naming rights. Just look at the battle currently going down in court over the name Joe's Pizza. It's got everything you could want in a pizza tale: marriage, divorce, pizza and outposts in la-la-land.
This can get a little confusing, so we'll try and keep this simple: Joe's Pizza is a well-known pizza parlor at 7 Carmine Street off Bleecker owned by Pino Pozzuoli. Pozzuoli also used to own another Joe's Pizza at 233 Bleecker Street which he closed in 2004. You've probably been drunk in the Village at some point and had one of their slices. Anyway, in 1981 Pozzuoli hired a pizzaiolo named Giuseppe Vitale and in 1985 Vitale married Pozzuoli's daughter Theresa. They remained married until 2004. Got that? Good, because here is where things get interesting.
Before the divorce Vitale went and opened another pizza joint without his father-in-law, this one was in Park Slope and called Joe's Pizza of Bleecker Street (not to be confused of John's Pizzeria of Bleecker Street!). In 2005 he sold his interest in that operation but opened another Joe's Pizza of Bleecker Street, this one on King's Highway. Then in 2007 and 2009 he opened two more, in Santa Monica and West Hollywood. In 2007 he also filed to trademark both "Joe's Pizza" and "Joe's Pizza of Bleecker Street" (both were approved). In his application Vitale even went so far as to claim he had founded the original, now closed, Joe's Pizza of Bleecker Street (which he did not, it opened in 1974 before he got to the original Joe's). Worse, Vitale also has been using pictures and reviews of the original "famous" Joe's Pizza on his restaurant websites and marketing materials. Seriously, try and google Joe's Pizza and see if you can tell which Joe is which.
So naturally, Pozzuoli is suing. And, initially, he is winning! In a preliminary injunction late last month the court ordered Vitale's Joe's to basically stop pretending in any materials online or elsewhere that they are connected to the original restaurant (they seem to be taking their time). They can continue to use the name, however, for the time being.
In other pizzeria naming news, perhaps you've noticed the curiously named "Mario Bros Pizza" with the familiar plumbers on its sign on Houston Street? Folks have been wondering for awhile when Nintendo would get around to shutting the place down, and as Bowery Boogie is reporting that the joint has yet to reopen from a "holiday break" and doesn't look like it ever will. The disconnected phone certainly helps that argument.