Brothers Ralph and Roger Davino have been fighting over the Pompei restaurant name. The Italian restaurant is located near the intersection of Ashland Avenue and Taylor Street. Alex Wroblewski/Sun-Times
Updated: September 14, 2013 6:18AM
A culinary family tradition that brought Chicago more than a century of pizza pies has turned into a family feud — and spilled into a federal courtroom.
Ralph Davino, owner of the Pompei restaurants on the Near West Side and Orland Park, sued his brother and nephew last month for opening their own eatery in Lake View with the name Pompeii Xpress.
His lawyers went before a federal judge Monday to try to stop Roger and Jonathan Davino from using that name while the case goes forward. And Judge Robert Gettleman obliged.
The judge handed down a weeklong temporary restraining order forcing the restaurant in Lakeview to change its name for the time being.
“It could be Davino’s Xpress,” Gettleman said.
Or, he added, even “Roger’s Xpress.”
But he said the use of the word “Pompeii” — whether spelled with one “i” or two — was “clearly, in my view” a trademark violation. He said the word must disappear from the Lake View restaurant’s menus, signage and website by Wednesday afternoon. At the same time, Ralph Davino must post a $10,000 bond.
Lawyers for both sides are expected back in Gettleman’s courtroom Aug. 19.
“Maybe you need a psychologist rather than a lawyer,” Gettleman said.
That’s because lawyers for both sides acknowledged the case is the result of a “family spat.”
The original Pompei restaurant on Taylor Street was founded in 1909 by Ralph Davino’s grandfather, Luigi Davino. Ralph Davino said in his lawsuit that he’s owned and operated the restaurant since the 1980s and takes credit for growing it into the “thriving and profitable pizzeria and casual Italian eatery that it is today.”
Meanwhile, his brother Roger and nephew Jonathan Davino’s own Mista Pizza restaurants struggled, he said in his lawsuit. He claimed the pair changed the name of their company last May to Pompeii Xpress LLC and opened their first Pompeii Xpress restaurant at 2931 N. Broadway around the same time.
Thomas Rosenwein, an attorney for Pompeii Xpress who said the Lake View restaurant is owned only by Jonathan Davino, argued in court that his client’s eatery is a small take-out and delivery joint that already posted a prominent disclaimer disavowing any affiliation with the Pompei on Taylor.
But Ralph Davino’s lawyer, David Wix, said that disclaimer proves confusion exists about affiliations between the two restaurants. He also pointed to an article by an online publication that erroneously linked the two.
The two sides also bickered about a third restaurant that once went by the same name in Arlington Heights.
Gettleman ultimately sided with Ralph Davino, and he suggested the Lake View eatery cover its sign and place stickers over the word “Pompeii” on its menus. The order lasts until 12:08 p.m. Aug. 19, and he’s giving the owners 48 hours to comply.
“I’m not expecting them to do it by sun-down today,” Gettleman said.