N.Y. state seizes Brooklyn restaurant tied to felons friendly with Mayor Adams over $380K tax debt

The Ianucci suit, which is pending, also notes that despite not paying rent, Forno Rosso collected more than $500,000 in two pandemic-related Paycheck Protection Program loans, one for $235,200 in April 2020 and the other for $315,400 in February 2021.

A Brooklyn restaurant with ties to two admitted felons who are friends of Mayor Adams was seized by state authorities this week for failing to pay nearly $400,000 in back taxes, the Daily News has learned.

Forno Rosso, an upscale pizzeria on Gold Street in Downtown Brooklyn, got two brightly-colored “SEIZED” notices from the State Department of Taxation and Finance slapped on its front door Wednesday because of the hefty tax debt.

“This property has been seized for nonpayment of taxes, and is now in the possession of the state of New York,” the notices stated in all caps. “Any person who attempts to tamper or interfere with this property will be prosecuted.”

Forno Rosso in Brooklyn, New York as seen on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. (Noah Goldberg/)

But by Thursday, the notices had been covered up with handwritten signs that read “Closed for renovations.” It was not immediately clear who put up the new signs.

A spokesman for the State Department of Taxation and Finance confirmed Thursday that the property was seized for an outstanding balance of $380,785 that has accrued since warrants were first issued in 2018.

Public records show the restaurant is partially controlled by Zhan and Robert Petrosyants, twin brothers who pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges in 2014 and have recently landed in the headlines over their connections to Adams and his top City Hall adviser.

Forno Rosso’s front door in Brooklyn, New York on Thursday, March 3, 2022, one day after the New York tax authorities seized the building. (Obtained by Daily News/)

In happier times, then-Brooklyn Borough President Adams beamed alongside Zhan Petrosyants as the duo attended the 2014 ribbon-cutting ceremony for Forno Rosso, where a personal burrata, provola, and speck pizza used to cost $23.

According to the state tax warrants, the principal owner of Forno Rosso is Akiva Ofshtein, a Brooklyn lawyer who has been in business with the Petrosyants for years.

The Petrosyants twins, in turn, hold an ownership stake in the restaurant, according to a lawsuit filed against them in 2016 by four former business partners that remains pending in Brooklyn Supreme Court. Robert Petrosyants is also listed in the restaurant’s lease as a guarantor and testified as part of an unrelated lawsuit last year that he is Forno Rosso’s manager, according to a sworn deposition obtained by The News.

Ofshtein confirmed Robert Petrosyants has been employed by Forno Rosso, but disputed the idea that either of the brothers own the restaurant.

“I am the sole owner,” he wrote in an email.

Ofshtein also said he’s working with the state to pay off the tax debt and suggested he doesn’t envision reopening the restaurant for business.

“COVID-19, and then omicron was a double whammy that Forno Rosso could not recover from. The lease is expiring in April 2022 and isn’t being renewed,” he said.

On top of their tax issue, Robert Petrosyants and Ofshtein are being sued separately in Brooklyn Supreme Court by the landlords of the swanky pizzeria for allegedly failing to pay rent since April 2020 to the tune of $363,355 as of October 2021.

“These people run a restaurant, they’ve been taking in a fortune, and they’re not paying rent,” said Scott Loffredo, a lawyer for the landlords, Robert Ianucci and Sonia Ewers.

The Ianucci suit, which is pending, also notes that despite not paying rent, Forno Rosso collected more than $500,000 in two pandemic-related Paycheck Protection Program loans, one for $235,200 in April 2020 and the other for $315,400 in February 2021.

In a counterclaim filed against Ianucci, a lawyer for Robert Petrosyants and Ofshtein claims that the landlord actually owes the restaurant $90,000 because he “habitually ate, drank … used the space for personal and business meetings and private events, without payment” over a seven-year period.

Zhan “Johnny” Petrosyants (right) and his twin brother, Robert Petrosyants (left).
In addition to Forno Rosso, Ofshtein and the Petrosyants siblings used to co-run Woodland, a defunct restaurant in Park Slope that shut down in 2020 after the state revoked its liquor license due to quality of life complaints from neighbors.

Despite being closed, the Woodland business is deep in tax debt, too, records show.

A flurry of state warrants dating back as far as 2014 reveals that Woodland still owes nearly $1.9 million in withholding, sales and corporate taxes.

The Petrosyants’ checkered pasts have not stopped them from maintaining a presence in Adams’ tight-knit inner circle of friends and advisers.

Zhan Petrosyants, who goes by “Johnny,” regularly spends time with the mayor at Manhattan restaurants and bars, like the exclusive members-only Zero Bond club in NoHo. Politico reported last month that Adams sometimes even sleeps at Zhan Petrosyants’ apartment in Trump World Tower on the Upper East Side — an allegation the mayor’s team vehemently denies.

Both Zhan and Robert Petrosyants, meantime, are connected to Frank Carone, Adams’ chief of staff, via a no-fault medical insurance business that Carone used to control, as first reported by The News last month.

The Petrosyants, an Adams spokesman said, are just “friends” with Carone.

With Michael Gartland

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