July 30, 2020

Critically acclaimed Shaw restaurants, San Lorenzo and Stellina Pizzeria also file lawsuit against Erie Insurance Group

WASHINGTON – Ristorante Tosca, the Northern Italian inspired dining destination with executive chef Riccardo Rinaldi, filed a lawsuit Thursday in the Philadelphia Court of Commons Pleas, along with critically acclaimed restaurants San Lorenzo and Stellina Pizzeria, stating that Erie Insurance Group rejected their claim to cover losses despite having paid into comprehensive business interruption insurance coverage.

All across the country, many restaurants that thought they were being responsible by securing and paying premiums for business interruption coverage are now facing mounting costs resulting from their insurance company’s failure to cover losses arising from COVID-19.

Ristorante Tosca

The lawsuit filed Thursday is on behalf of Ristorante Tosca, an Italian mainstay in Washington, D.C.’s Penn Quarter, known equally for its reservation list of D.C. power brokers, as it is for its menu of seasonal Northern Italian cuisine. The acclaimed restaurant has been featured in The Washington Post and was included in the 2019 MICHELIN Guide, and recently listed as a pre-theater destination in Eater DC. When Ristorante Tosca submitted its claim to Erie Insurance Group, the company swiftly denied the claim, despite the restaurant paying significant premiums for business interruption insurance for years.

The provisional premiums charged for Tosca’s policy this year alone for their business coverage was $17,200.00. 

“Tosca has the great fortune to have become an integral part of Penn Quarter and to be at the nexus of the local, national and international political scene in Washington,” said Paolo Sacco, owner of Ristorante Tosca. “On behalf of the Tosca family, we are eternally grateful to our loyal customers for their continued support through this difficult time.”

“We’re committed to doing everything we can to keep our customers and our staff safe, which meant we must temporarily close our doors, "said Riccardo Rinaldi, executive chef at Ristorante Tosca. “After having paid into business interruption insurance for years, we were shocked by Erie Insurance Group’s quick dismissal of our claim. Their rejection is unacceptable and risks the future of our business.”

Executive Chef Riccardo Rinaldi takes inspiration from his native city of Montecatini Terme in Tuscany, Italy. Chef Rinaldi joined Tosca as a line cook in 2005 and worked his way through every station in the restaurant until being named Executive Chef. He briefly left Tosca in 2015 to work at the two-Michelin star restaurant Minibar, owned and operated by Chef José Andrés, as a sous chef, where he mastered modern culinary techniques and developed strong relationships with some of the best local farmers in the region. Chef Rinaldi returned to Tosca in 2017 as the Executive Chef.

San Lorenzo and Stellina Pizzeria

San Lorenzo and Stellina Pizzeria, two small, critically acclaimed restaurants based in Washington, D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood, are also plaintiffs in this lawsuit, as they purchased similar insurance policies from Erie and received almost identical denial letters to Ristorante Tosca.

Both of these restaurants have been purchasing business interruption insurance from Erie for years since they opened. The provisional premiums they were charged for this year’s policy alone for their business coverage were $14,322.00 for the San Lorenzo policy and $5,276.00 for the Stellina Pizzeria policy. 

San Lorenzo is an Italian restaurant specializing in fresh ingredients from the Tuscan region, where the owner and Executive Chef Massimo Fabbri grew up. The restaurant pays homage to Massimo’s hometown of Monsummano Terme, 30 miles northwest of Florence, Italy. Open since 2018; San Lorenzo was named to the 2019 and 2020 Washingtonian’s list of “100 Very Best Restaurants” as well as the 2020 Michelin Guide’s “Best Italian Restaurants in Washington, D.C.”

Italiana, LLC operates Stellina Pizzeria, which is also located in Shaw. Stellina is a gourmet Italian restaurant and pizzeria that fuses southern Italian tradition with modern, urban style. Stellina is owned and operated by longtime friends, restaurateurs, and native Italians Antonio Matarazzo and chef Matteo Venini, and only opened its doors in 2019. Since then, it has received numerous accolades, including being named to the Washingtonian’s 2020 list of the “100 Very Best Restaurants”, The Washington Post’s “D.C. Area’s 10 Best Pizzas” list, The Washington Post’s list of “10 Best Casual Dining Restaurants for 2019”, Thrillist’s list of “D.C.’s Best New Restaurants of 2019” and was awarded the 2020 Michelin Guide’s “Bib Gourmand” award for restaurants serving “exceptionally good food at moderate prices”, just to name a few.

Ristorante Tosca, San Lorenzo, and Stellina Pizzeria are represented by Washington, D.C.-based Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and California-based Gibbs Law Group. The firms are actively reviewing potential claims on behalf of restaurants and small business owners across the country who have been affected by insurance companies’ refusal to pay.  

“It’s devastating to see Washington D.C.’s vibrant restaurant industry struggle to stay afloat from this pandemic as insurance companies rake in billions of dollars of their insureds’ premiums, refuse to pay their contractually agreed-upon coverage and idly watch their policyholders suffer,” said Geoffrey Graber, a Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll partner, and head of the firm’s COVID-19 Business Interruption Insurance Coverage Task Force. “Ristorante Tosca, San Lorenzo, and Stellina are led by exceptional chefs, and they feed not only the greater Washington, D.C. community, but all those who visit our nation’s capital every day. It would be tragic if insurance companies like Erie to let restaurants, especially the restaurants that are just building their reputations, go under, especially when each of these restaurants’ owners were told that their insurer would support them during this type of crisis.” 

“Erie has broken the trust of small business owners across the country by not paying for the coverage they claimed to provide, and if they don’t step up, small businesses around the country will be financially decimated,” said Andre Mura, a partner at Gibbs Law Group, and member of the firm’s COVID-19 Business Interruption Insurance Coverage Task Force. “As a task force, we are working to protect not only the small business owners, who have so greatly suffered from the pandemic but also the hundreds of thousands of employees that rely on having a stable paycheck. It’s critical for our nation’s economy that small business owners and working families join together and demand that the insurance companies live up to their agreements, and we’ll do what it takes to lead this fight and make sure they are properly compensated.”

Restaurants and other small business owners who believe they were wrongfully denied insurance coverage for losses related to COVID-19 may contact the Cohen Milstein and Gibbs Law Group’s COVID-19 Business Interruption Insurance Coverage Task Force at 800-924-7107.

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About Cohen Milstein Sellers and Toll PLLC

Cohen Milstein is a premier plaintiff law firm in the United States, handling high-profile, complex litigation. Cohen Milstein has over 100 attorneys in offices in Washington, DC; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Chicago, IL; Raleigh, NC; and Palm Beach Gardens, FL. The firm has received numerous accolades for its work and several for Consumer Protection law:

  • Law360, “Practice Group of the Year – Consumer Protection” (2019, 2018)
  • Trial Magazine, “America’s Most Influential Law Firms” (2019, 2018)
  • Benchmark Litigation, “Top 10 Plaintiffs Firm” (2019)
  • The National Law Journal, “Winner – Elite Trial Lawyers – Consumer” (2018)
  • Vault, “20 Best Litigation Boutiques” (2018)
  • Law360, “Practice Group of the Year – Class Action” (2017)

About Gibbs Law Group

California-based Gibbs Law Group represents small businesses, consumers, whistleblowers, and employees across the U.S. against the world’s largest corporations. Our award-winning lawyers have achieved landmark recoveries and over a billion dollars for our clients in high-stakes complex lawsuits and individual cases involving consumer protection, data breach, digital privacy, and employment law. Our attorneys have received numerous honors for their work, including:

  • Daily Journal, “Top Boutique Law Firms in California” (2019)
  • Law360, “Titans of the Plaintiffs Bar- Eric Gibbs” (2019)
  • Law360, “Class Action Practice Group of the Year” (2019)
  • Daily Journal, “Top Plaintiff Lawyers in California” (2020, 2019)
  • Daily Journal, “California Lawyer Attorney of the Year (CLAY Award)” (2019)
  • Best Lawyers in America (2012-2019)