By Rebecca Henely
Eight former employees of Astoria’s celebrated Trattoria L’Incontro are suing the restaurant and its owners in Brooklyn federal court, claiming they were not paid proper wages and that their managers skimmed their tips.
Rocco Sacramone, owner and chef of L’Incontro, said he had not seen the lawsuit but denied the charges when asked about them.
“They get paid whatever they’re supposed to be paid, and they get tips,” Sacramone said of his waitstaff.
L’Incontro is an Italian restaurant at 21-76 31st St. in Astoria. The restaurant, which opened in 1999, has received numerous accolades. Zagat 2012 named it the best restaurant in Queens and put it on its lists for best food, best Italian food and best service in the city.
The suit was filed by eight former employees, most of whom are from Queens and all of whom worked as either waiters or busboys, on behalf of themselves and all other waitstaff who have been employed at L’Incontro in the past six years.
The main plaintiffs include Jorge Carmona of Manhattan, Felix Fernandez of Sunnyside, Nail Husic of Staten Island, Marco Matic of Long Island City, Imre Nemeth of Maspeth, Juan Pesantez of Jackson Heights, and Josko Radnic and Luis Uruchima, both of whom are from unspecified neighborhoods in Queens. The suit is filed against L’Incontro, Sacramone and co-owner Jack Brucculeri.
In papers filed in Brooklyn federal court by Manhattan attorney Louis Pechman, the employees allege that L’Incontro did not pay its waitstaff statutory minimum wage or overtime, with employees getting $10 per shift. Pechman contends Carmona often receives only $20 for two shifts, a workday greater than 12 hours.
While the waiters and busboys also receive tips, the suit also claims their tips are put into a pool that is divided among all staff, with busboys getting half of what waiters get. From this pool, the managers receive 10 percent of the day’s tips, court papers said.
Minimum wage in New York is $7.25 per hour, but food service workers are supposed to receive a wage of at least $5 per hour provided their total of tips allows them to earn a rate of $7.25 per hour or greater with the wage, according to the state Department of Labor’s website.
Sacramone said tips are divided among the waitstaff and denied that any money is skimmed.
“The managers don’t take anything,” he said.
Pechman alleges in the lawsuit that the waitstaff and busboys are also not reimbursed for maintaining the uniforms they are required to wear.
Sacramone said he found the claim “kind of laughable.”
“You can’t afford to go to the dry cleaner for $3 a week?” he asked.
Sacramone said no similar lawsuit has ever been filed against the restaurant in the past.
Pechman, who runs the site waiterpay.com, won the largest settlement from a single restaurant, getting $3.15 million from Manhattan’s Sparks Steak House, the New York Post reported.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.