Restaurateur Sami Mina, well known locally as the founder and longstanding operator of popular eateries including Pomodoro Grill and Aladdin’s Natural Eatery, has filed for personal bankruptcy. Aladdin’s and another local restaurant whose management Mina has a hand in are still open for business.
In a Chapter 7 petition filed Jan. 3 in the Western District of New York Bankruptcy Court’s Rochester Division, Mina states liabilities of $2.25 million against assets of $661,667.
Chapter 7 debtors seek to liquidate assets under the supervision of a trustee to create a fund to pay some or all of what they owe. In some cases, debtors can see their debts discharged while creditors go unpaid. Mina’s heavily mortgaged $535,000 Perinton home, which he hopes to keep, accounts for most of his assets. He did not return a call for comment.
“Debtor operated several restaurants (that) became insolvent and closed; creditors repossessed collateral, commenced litigation against debtor. Debtor (is) now filing to obtain fresh start,” a declaration on Mina’s bankruptcy petition states.
With locations on Monroe Avenue, Schoen Place in Pittsford and in Ithaca near the Cornell University campus, Aladdin’s remains in operation. Its website describes the Mediterranean eatery, which Mina founded in 1980, as an “employee-owned, managed and operated restaurant under the supervision and consulting of founder Sami Mina.”
Pomodoro, a popular University Avenue eatery founded by Mina in 1993, abruptly shut down in January 2019.
Mina also currently serves as a consultant to two other local eateries, Blades Diner and Blades Bar & Grill, a Blades worker, who declined to identify himself, said.
Situated on the same 1290 University Ave. property that housed Pomodoro, the Blades eateries are connected by a corridor to the former Pomodoro’s building, which is in disuse. Mina is on site often at Blades but “comes and goes” irregularly, the employee said. He understands that the Blades eateries are owned by a separate corporation whose name he does not know, the worker added.
Mina’s bankruptcy petition states that the Blades restaurants and Saha Med Grill had been run between 2013 and mid-2019 by Saha Med Grill of Rochester LLC. The petition describes the LLC as a corporation that Mina had been a sole proprietor of or held an interest in. Saha Med Grill was a Mediterranean-style eatery Mina ran on Mt. Hope Avenue. The LLC ceased operations in July 2019, the petition states.
Mina had been a one-third partner in the University Avenue property’s owner, I.M.V. 1290 LLC. He ceded his interest in that company to its other partners to satisfy a $100,000 debt owed by Pomodoro to I.M.V for back rent, Mina’s bankruptcy petition states.
A 2015 State Supreme Court ruling handed down by Matthew Rosenbaum, the presiding justice of the state Commercial Court’s Rochester division at that time, details extensive disputes between Mina and the LLC’s other partners, Frank Imburgia and James Verdi.
“The parties have been disingenuous in their dealings with each other regarding lease agreements stemming from apparent dissension among the principals (Mina, Verdi and Imburgia) of a partnership I.M.V. which owns the building where plaintiff Mina owns and operates Pomodoro,” Rosenbaum wrote.
Much of the debt cited in Mina’s bankruptcy petition traces to business debts for which he may be personally liable including some $600,000 owed to various lenders, $129,000 to state taxing and labor authorities, and some $500,000 owed to vendors and trade creditors who serviced Mina’s restaurant ventures.
Mina states in the petition that his current monthly income of $4,480 will be reduced by $1,000 when a foreclosure of a rental property is completed, leaving him with $2,480 in Social Security and $1,000 a girlfriend kicks in to defray expenses.
The restaurateur’s top stated expense is $4,000 a month in upkeep, taxes and mortgage payments for his Perinton residence. Mina states that he intends to keep the Cathedral Oaks residence. The Perinton home has a more than $400,000 balance left on its mortgage. Mina also put it up as collateral against several business debts, his bankruptcy petition shows.
Will Astor is Rochester Beacon senior writer.