NEW YORK – Ciao, Rocco.
A Manhattan judge yesterday cooked TV chef Rocco DiSpirito's (search) goose, giving his arch enemy, Jeffrey Chodorow, the go-ahead to sell Rocco's 22nd St., the site of the hit NBC reality show "The Restaurant." (search)
"I don't think you're obligated to keep open a restaurant that's losing money," State Supreme Court Justice Ira Gammerman told lawyers for Chodorow and his partners in China Grill Management (search), which financed the eatery.
DiSpirito, 37, left the courthouse at the end of the hearing without commenting. His spokesman, Tom Chiodo, said he was "obviously disappointed" by the ruling. Chodorow said the ruling means only the name of Rocco's 22nd St. will be eighty-sixed — the eatery's approximately 100 employees won't lose their jobs.
"Anybody who's performed well will keep their job," he said — a message he delivered to the employees in person after the hearing.
Chodorow, who testified his company lost $4.7 million in the eatery, said he's considering using the space for a completely different restaurant. "I'm trying to figure out a plan to change it into something better," he said, adding it will remain open in its current setup until at least the end of August.
The first season of "The Restaurant" featured DiSpirito and Chodorow scrambling to open the eatery in five weeks in June 2003. The second season featured the personality clashes between the prickly pair — arguments that ended with Chodorow locking DiSpirito out of his namesake dining spot.
Their food fight spilled into court earlier this year, with Chodorow's CGM seeking to be declared the restaurant's sole owner, and DiSpirito saying he should be declared a 50 percent owner.
Gammerman didn't seem overly impressed with the celebrity chef.
At one point, Chodorow lawyer Laurence Kaiser was grilling DiSpirito in a heated cross-examination that was interrupted by Kaiser's ringing cell phone.
"Go ahead and answer your phone, Mr. Kaiser," DiSpirito said.
The judge snapped at the cook that the crack "didn't help you very much, I want you to know that. Being a wise guy doesn't help."
The ruling doesn't end the food feud — both sides are due back in court next month to hash out money matters.