By Stephen Witt
The co-owner of a Coney Island landmark restaurant charged last week that someone is trying to sabotage the famed eatery. “I had two brides calling me crying hysterically thinking I wouldn’t be able to do their wedding,” lamented Nino Russo, co-owner of Gargiulo’s Restaurant, 2911 West 15th Street. “I’m getting a little irritated now. It’s almost as if someone’s trying to sabotage me,” he added. Russo’s consternation came from newspaper reports and rumors in the community that the restaurant and its adjacent parking lot across the street were sold for $65 million to Joe Sitt, founder and president of Thor Equities. Sitt and his company already own much of the amusement area of Coney Island, having most recently bought Astroland, and plan on developing the area into a billion-dollar amusement, retail, hotel and residential complex. Thor Equities spokesperson Thomas Corsillo, when contacted last week by this paper, said he had not heard anything about such a sale. Regardless, the next day, a Manhattan-based daily paper, citing sources, reported the sale was imminent. Russo said that after reading the article, he had his lawyer call the newspaper, and the following day the paper reported there was no sale. Gargiulo’s Restaurant made it through the lean years when there was nothing but drugs and prostitution on the streets, but KeySpan Stadium and the city’s interest have turned things around, said Russo. Now that things are looking up in Coney Island and business is getting better, it seems someone wants to see them leave, he added. Russo’s uncles bought the restaurant from the Gargiulo Family in 1965, and it is currently owned by Russo, his three brothers and three cousins. “We’re here and want to stay. We’re having our 100th year anniversary in 2007 and everyone is celebrating,” Russo said. “We pride ourselves in Italian traditional food and a catering business second to none,” he added. There are couples coming here to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, at the same place that held their wedding party, Russo said proudly. Russo did say Joe Sitt came into the restaurant about two years ago and inquired about buying the property without putting out any offers. “He [Sitt] said if I was interested to contact him, but I’m not interested so I haven’t contacted him,” he said. “I’m sure he would love to have it [Gargiulo’s] to complete his plan in what he wants to do,” Russo added.