Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bitter fight in Spring Hill restaurant leads to lawsuit

SPRING HILL — An ownership dispute at a popular Italian restaurant spilled into court this week with allegations of "an intricate, sophisticated scheme of deceit and theft."

Touch of Napoli co-owners and chefs Luigi Barile and Antonio Cacace sued Monday, seeking more than $1 million in damages from Maryann Montalbano, the majority owner of the restaurant.

The suit alleges 13 counts of financial wrongdoing against Montalbano and her husband that involve "fraud, embezzlement and theft of funds and property both criminally and civilly."

The 30-page suit and accompanying documents mention everything from fights at the restaurant and questionable tax filings to business records set on fire and threats of suicide.

"The co-owners of the restaurant are being robbed blind," said Steve Bartlett, a Holiday attorney who represents Barile, 28, and Cacace, 32. "The one owner has been stealing money hand over fist to the detriment of the restaurant."

Montalbano, 57, said Tuesday that the matter "is a personal thing." She is Barile's mother-in-law.

She also called it a misunderstanding, suggesting that Barile and Cacace, native Italians, don't understand customary business practices in the United States.

She referred further questions to her attorney or the business' attorney, neither of whom returned calls Tuesday.

The chefs' attorney said the dispute began soon after the business launched in July 2005. Court records show it escalating in late 2008.

Barile and Cacace asked for financial records about the time Montalbano sought to recover $114,000 she and her husband apparently loaned the business.

The chefs' contend no such loan existed and they never received profits from the partnership. Court documents indicate the restaurant is for sale and burdened by debt.

Montalbano refused to provide all the business records, saying that she burned some receipts because they took up too much room in her garage, documents state.

She "intentionally failed to provide the records requested to conceal her criminal and civil wrongful activities," the lawsuit claims.

In January, Montalbano's husband, Tom, and Cacace were involved in a fight in the restaurant kitchen, said Hernando County Sheriff's Office reports. Deputies received contradictory claims about what occurred and prosecutors didn't file charges.

Days later, Maryann Montalbano told the chefs that the restaurant, which cleared about $11,000 to $14,000 a week, didn't have money to pay the staff, some of whom she fired.

On Jan. 27, she fired Barile, the head chef, but he refused to leave.

Barile and Cacace continue to work and the restaurant, at Powell Avenue and Barclay Road, remains open.

John Frank can be reached at or (352) 754-6114.

Bitter fight in Spring Hill restaurant leads to lawsuit 04/28/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 8:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Sharknado' coming to Tampa Theatre with director Q&A


    A movie about a tornado filled with man-eating sharks has to be better on the big screen, right? You'll have a chance to find out for yourself when the Syfy network's original Sharknado screens at Tampa Theatre.

    The original 'Sharknado,' which premiered in 2013, will screen at Tampa Theatre.
  2. Coast Guard airlifts man from fishing boat in Gulf of Mexico

    Public Safety

    A 27-year-old man was evacuated from a fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter Saturday night, authorities said.

  3. Trump: Not 'that far off' from passing health overhaul


    WASHINGTON — Making a final push, President Donald Trump said he doesn't think congressional Republicans are "that far off" on a health overhaul to replace "the dead carcass of Obamacare." Expressing frustration, he complained about "the level of hostility" in government and wondered why both parties can't work …

    President Donald Trump speaks during a bill signing event for the "Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017" in the East Room of the White House, Friday, June 23, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) DCEV208
  4. Erin Andrews, ex-NHL player Jarret Stoll marry in Montana


    NEW YORK — Sportscaster Erin Andrews and former NHL player Jarret Stoll have tied the knot.

    FILE - In this Oct. 30, 2016 file photo, Fox Sports broadcaster Erin Andrews, left, speaks with Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones after an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in Atlanta. Jennifer Allen, a publicist for Andrews, confirms Sunday, June 25, 2017, that the 38-year-old Fox Sports sideline reporter and ???‚??“Dancing with the Stars???‚?? co-host married the 35-year-old Stoll over the weekend.  (AP Photo/David Goldman, File) NYSP103
  5. Amid FBI probe of Tallahassee, Gillum says GOP trying to 'put as much dirt on me as they can'


    Tallahassee mayor and candidate for governor Andrew Gillum might like his supporters to think a federal investigation into development deals in his city is political – but …

    Andrew Gillum