ST. LOUIS — First, Amighetti’s on the Hill wouldn’t toast its sandwiches. Then it refused to cut the stems off the pepperoncinis. Finally, it just closed and reopened, with new ownership and a new name.
Now, the owner of the Amighetti’s brand is suing its one-time flagship deli, alleging the owner of the new sandwich shop has violated their licensing agreement.
“It’s a complete scam,” said Anthony Favazza, who owns the brand, but not the store on the Hill. “It’s obvious it’s the same people in the same space doing the same thing.”
Favazza last week sued Dominic Consolino, the owner of the now-closed Amighetti’s on the Hill, and Consolino’s wife, Cathy, who owns and operates the new deli, Colino’s, in the same location.
But the Consolinos’ attorney, David Weiss, said Favazza couldn’t demand that changes be made to Amighetti’s on the Hill just because he owns the brand. And Dominic Consolino isn’t involved in the operation of Colino’s, so the Amighetti licensing agreement doesn’t apply, Weiss argued. Cathy Consolino, he said, never signed that same agreement.
“She’s not a shareholder to that agreement,” Weiss said. “She never was. She was an employee at Amighetti’s just like anybody else there. She happens to be married to Dominic.”
Weiss said Colino’s is not using Amighetti’s bread or sauce recipes.
Amighetti’s on the Hill had operated at the corner of Wilson and Marconi avenues since 1921. It became an institution on the Hill — St. Louis’ famous Italian neighborhood — beloved for its Amighetti Special sandwich, among other items.
Dominic Consolino bought the deli in 2014. In 2016, Favazza purchased the rights to the Amighetti’s brand. This meant that Favazza and Consolino were locked into a licensing agreement regarding the Amighetti name and signature recipes.
Favazza also owns and operates Amighetti’s in Rock Hill.
He said the trouble started in late 2016, a few months after he’d taken over the Amighetti brand. He wanted to revamp the menu, and told Consolino so, but the changes were never made at Amighetti’s on the Hill. He suggested a new music playlist for the restaurant, but it was never played. He wanted to switch over to toasting hot sandwiches rather than microwaving them, but that change didn’t happen either. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a pepperoncini stem: Favazza told Consolino to start cutting the stems off before putting the peppers on the signature Amighetti Special sandwich. Consolino left the stems on.
“I had tried everything possible to get them to make any progress whatsoever, and there was no progress at any time,” Favazza said. “I bought the brand to reinvigorate it, to turn it around. We’d had declining sales for 25 years. The brand is in need of an overhaul, and Dominic denied me what I’d bought.”
Now Colino’s is “telling the community that it’s the same family with the same Amighetti recipes,” the lawsuit states.
But Colino’s shouldn’t even be a deli, Favazza said: The licensing agreement’s noncompete clause forbids the shop from selling bread or sandwiches. Colino’s could rebrand as a different kind of restaurant, he said, selling burritos or sushi, for example. But they can’t compete with Amighetti’s within 10 miles of the Hill location, he said, and certainly not in the same building.
“If you’re going to trust someone with what is literally your secret sauce and teach them how to run an Amighetti’s, it’s very common to say, ‘I don’t want you to take all this knowledge and turn around and stab me in the back,” Favazza said.
Weiss said Cathy Consolino plans to “vigorously” defend her claim to operating the new restaurant at its current location.
“They have roots that go back,” he said. “They’re well respected in that community. They both feel very strongly about the Hill. Cathy wanted to continue there and not be pushed out … Cathy is too strong-willed to let that happen.”