Pizzeria Blames Audit on Zagat Ranking

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Photo: Julien Jourdes/New York Times/Redux

Mark Iacono, the owner of Lucali, the tiny, brick-oven pizzeria in Carroll Gardens favored by Beyoncé Knowles, Jay-Z, and schools chancellor Joel Klein, is learning that being top dog isn’t always a good thing. Last October, the Zagat survey crowned his slightly charred, three-cheese pizza the best pie in the city, a surprise upset over reigning champ, Domenico DeMarco’s Di Fara in Midwood. As it turns out, pizza fans weren’t the only ones paying attention.

Photo: Julien Jourdes/New York Times/Redux

Two weeks after the ranking appeared, the state Department of Taxation and Finance notified Iacono that it would audit his two-year-old business, where he also works as the sole pizza chef. “I don’t think it was coincidental,” says Iacono, a former marble-and-granite fabricator. He says he asked tax officials why he was under scrutiny when they paid his restaurant a visit last year: “They said, ‘You guys are the No. 1 pizzeria.’” Susan Burns, a spokeswoman for the state’s Tax Department, declined to comment on the audit, but said, “We wouldn’t select a business for auditing based solely on a ranking.” She added, however, that the deficit-ridden state is taking a closer look at the books of cash-only operations like Lucali’s. Iacono says he knows he’s not in bad company. Last year, state officials briefly shut down Grimaldi’s, another Zagat favorite, in a dispute over unpaid sales taxes.

Related: Grimaldi’s Briefly Seized by Tax Authorities