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Restaurant files for Chapter 11.

Byline: Martin Luttrell

WORCESTER - G'Vanni's Ristorante Italiano, the Italian restaurant that opened in the historic Bull Mansion building on Pearl Street in December, will remain closed pending a planned Chapter 11 reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Owner Frank D. Kirby said the restaurant, closed since Jan. 24, was a culinary success, but was plagued by costs during the two months it was open. Worcester Restaurant Associates, Mr. Kirby's corporation that owned the business, filed for bankruptcy late Wednesday.

"It's (the bankruptcy is) regrettable," Mr. Kirby said. "It's no one's fault. But it's the first chapter, not the last."

A hearing on the case was set by Bankruptcy Court Judge Joel B. Rosenthal for 11 a.m. March 12.

"I'm trying to get a new operator in there as soon as I can," Mr. Kirby said shortly after he appeared before the city License Commission yesterday. He was scheduled to name a new manager for the restaurant because original chef and manager John DeCristofaro quit. Instead, he told the commission that the restaurant would remain closed for the time being.

In getting another entity to run the restaurant, he will put together a plan to pay off creditors as best he can, he said.

Among the unsecured creditors listed in the case are the RFF Family Partnership LLP of Santa Monica, Calif., with a claim of $260,000. Other claims include $10,766 by National Grid and a total of $4,500 from the Internal Revenue Service and state Department of Revenue for withholding and meals taxes.

Mr. Kirby, who purchased the 55 Pearl St. property a year ago, said it took until August to have the restaurant's liquor license approved by the state's Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. He decided August would not be a good time to open, with so many people on vacation.

He hoped to open in November, but ended up opening the following month, after carrying the mortgage on the building and spending several thousand dollars to renovate and decorate the upper floors, he said.

"John DeCristofaro, from a culinary standpoint, was an unbridled success," he said. "Underlying that success was tremendous economic loss." He said that he took a $60,000 loss for the month of December.

During a chance meeting with friend and businessman Robert Lockwood of Beverly Farms, he asked Mr. Lockwood to look over the restaurant's sales data. "I'm a lawyer. I looked at it and couldn't make sense out of it. He's a sharp businessman, Harvard Business School. The next day he told me the costs are out of control."

The following day, on Dec. 26, Mr. Lockwood confronted Mr. DeCristofaro about costs, and the chef took umbrage over being questioned, Mr. Kirby said. Mr. Lockwood was not paid, but did it as a favor, Mr. Kirby said.

"There was no mandate from me. All he did was inquire on my behalf," he said. "He was a wonderful chef, and had a stunning impact on the customers," he said. "We had lots of return customers."

He said that after working for more than 40 years as a bankruptcy lawyer, it hurt to have to file for bankruptcy himself. Meanwhile, he plans to let the nonprofit Alumni Club of Worcester continue to use space in the upper floors.
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 6, 2009
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