La Bella Vita catering hall, which closed last month after nearly 30 years in business, had been in financial trouble for some time and filed for bankruptcy in federal court in May. Now, at least two people are saying the company screwed them out of money they had paid for parties slated for December that never occurred.
The facility located at 106-02 Rockaway Blvd. shut down abruptly in mid-December. But documents filed in federal bankruptcy court from May show the catering hall had been in financial straits for some time.
According to records at the New York Eastern Bankruptcy Court, the owners, operating under the business name Tres Amici, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 17. But the catering hall remained open at least into December.
Its owner, Tony Modica, was well-known in the community and had a minor hit with a song called “Pizza Dance” in the early 2000s.
One woman, who only identified herself as Angie, said she booked a party for her office, the Queens employees of the New York City Housing Authority, for Dec. 20. They had paid a deposit upon booking in October and paid the $1,500 balance on Dec. 5. Twelve days later, she said she received a call from La Bella Vita informing her that there had been a fire in the kitchen and the party would have to be postponed.
“I didn’t think anything of it at the time,” Angie said, noting that the Queens NYCHA office had had parties at La Bella Vita before without any issue.
When she never heard back from the facilitators at the catering hall about rescheduling the party, she went directly to the place.
“I saw the door padlocked and furniture had been taken out of the building,” Angie explained.
She wasn’t the only one taken by surprise by the closing.
On a YouTube page featuring a video of the “Pizza Dance,” Maria Coleman commented that she had a party booked last month and was looking for information.
“Why is it closed?” she asked in her comment. “I have a party there on Dec. 28. I need answers. What is going on?”
Both were still looking for management to get a refund on the money that had been paid for the parties that never occurred.
A source close to the owners said they had been evicted suddenly in mid-December and Modica had attempted to stay open for the holidays, but was forced to close.
It is also unknown if there was indeed a fire inside the building on Dec. 17 though an FDNY source said the department had not responded to any fire at the hall.
Attempts to reach Modica at an email on his personal website, office number and a cellular phone number provided by a customer were unsuccessful.
Opened in 1985, La Bella Vita became a popular location for weddings, birthdays, office parties, communions and other events. It often hosted dinners with live music on weeknights, sometimes with Modica performing.
The restaurant had not had a liquor license since September 2012, though Community Board 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton said last month it had applied for a new one.
Modica also owned a pizzeria next door to the catering hall that closed a few years ago.