Business Real Estate www.mvgazette.com Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 3:17pm
An Oak Bluffs restaurant famous for its heaping servings of pan pasta was sold at a foreclosure auction Tuesday morning.
William Craffey bid $450,000 to buy the former home of Jimmy Seas Pan Pasta. He and his business partner Lisa Huff have already invested in the property, which they plan to renovate and reinvent as a pan pasta restaurant, possibly with the same name. Mr. Craffey also operates Vineyard Pizza Place in Vineyard Haven and The Pizza Place at the Edgartown Triangle.
Former owner and chef James J. Cipolla, known as Jimmy C, was not present at the auction, run by Daniel McLaughlin and Co. in Boston. There was one other bidder.
Mr. Cipolla ran the restaurant for two decades, and said by phone Tuesday that Jimmy Seas had a great run, filled with countless memorable moments.
"That building had a lot of soul, and when summer would come, it would be as fun as it gets in the restaurant industry," Mr. Cipolla said.
The original Jimmy Seas Pan Pasta occupied a garage on Kennebec avenue. When the landlord raised the rent, the business moved to down the street to a much larger space.
Beginning in 1994, the restaurant served pasta right out of the pan at 38 Kennebec, a tradition he’d started in Boston before moving to the Island. “It took off very quickly,” he said.
Customers raved about the size of the portions, which they often brought home, he said. "They’d say, we ate that for three days; it was the best meal and the best deal in town."
The best sellers were zuppa di pesce and frutti di mare, both seafood pasta dishes.
Mr. Cipolla counts many celebrities among his customers, including Beyonce, Steven Tyler, Keith Richards and the Clinton family.
Actor Greg Kinnear, a former patron, included a shout-out to Jimmy Seas in the film Stuck on You.
"That was our only goal, to make sure that when you mention the restaurant’s name, people had good will about it," he said. "When it was rocking and rolling, we fit more people to a small space than you could possibly imagine."
The restaurant was known for being busy during dinner service. A sign outside still reads, "Wait at your own risk, don’t block traffic, we can’t deliver dinner to the hospital."
Mr. Cipolla maintained a private, very important person room in his own apartment upstairs, where he claims he once sheltered Chelsea Clinton from paparazzi. When they got word of this seating area, the town selectmen issued a warning on his liquor license.
Mr. Cipolla began cooking at age 13, and 40 years later, he admits he has suffered some burnout.
The ultimate demise of the restaurant followed a break-in in two winters ago, when an individual was found to be squatting inside, Mr. Cipolla said. The building sustained vandalism and substantial flooding in that incident. "It led us to lose last summer, and we just never really recovered," Mr. Cipolla said. He also suffered some health problems last year, he said.
Mr. Craffey and Ms. Huff have 30 days to close the sale. After handing in his deposit, Mr. Craffey said he would do everything in his power to be open for the summer season.
"I was getting bored, but that has changed," he said, referring to the laundry list of things he needs to do before he can open the restaurant.
For his part, Mr. Cipolla said a new opportunity had “come across his bow” recently. He declined to offer specifics. "Once you are in the restaurant business, you are always in the restaurant business," he said. "It’s in your blood."
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