Aussie pizza chain saved from collapse

 

The popular Criniti's Italian restaurant chain will live on with a late deal expected to resurrect of six of its Australian eateries.

Founded in 2003 in Parramatta in Sydney's west by husband-and-wife team Frank and Rima Criniti, the business soon expanded into a pizza institution with 13 restaurants popping up across Sydney - including tourist mecca Darling Harbour - and in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia.

But last year, the empire looked set to crumble after the company entered administration in November.

At its peak there were 13 Criniti's restaurants across Australia. Picture: Jim O'Rourke
At its peak there were 13 Criniti's restaurants across Australia. Picture: Jim O'Rourke

It resulted in a "temporary closure" of some stores, with eight left open.

Then, just last week, administrators Worrells Solvency and Forensic Accountants announced the coronavirus-induced national shutdown had ruined a last-ditch sale agreement to keep Criniti's open, with the chain set to close permanently with debts of more than $16.5 million.

But now the administrators have revealed a last-minute sale of the business's assets expected to be finalised today will save six of its 13 restaurants.

Criniti's will be snapped up by the Brunelli Group, with Criniti's restaurants in Castle Hill, Parramatta and Darling Harbour in Sydney, Kotara in Newcastle and Carlton and Southbank in Victoria to be salvaged.

The acquisition will double the size of the Brunelli Group while expanding its operations into three Australian states.

"The retail environment has never been more challenging, so we're very pleased that a slimmed-down Criniti's will be revived by the Brunelli Group, a South Australian-based Italian restaurant chain," Worrells' Graeme Beattie said.

Criniti's Manly restaurant shut down in November. Picture: Jim O'Rourke
Criniti's Manly restaurant shut down in November. Picture: Jim O'Rourke

"Our faith has been rewarded. This is a remarkable tale of retail survival and a testament to the strength of the Criniti's brand name.

"The leaner operation traded well through Christmas and the holidays and put up a good fight after the March ban on in-house dining only to succumb to corona-economics in early April."

Under the deal, the Brunelli Group will own all of Criniti's memorabilia, trademarks, recipes and menus, which means the Criniti's experience is expected to remain unchanged.

CRINITI'S TROUBLED PAST

After co-founding the company in 2003, Rima Criniti left the business in 2009 to raise her children.

She and husband Frank later split, with their messy divorce ending up in the courts.

After entering administration in November 2019, Criniti's restaurants in Manly and Kirrawee in Sydney were permanently closed, along with Wollongong, Chermside in Queensland and Carousel in Western Australia.

The Woolloomooloo eatery was closed in January 2020 followed by the Wetherill Park branch earlier this month.

Criniti's co-founder Rima Tannous. Picture: Instagram
Criniti's co-founder Rima Tannous. Picture: Instagram

A month after the collapse, Rima, who now goes by her maiden name Tannous, was assaulted by her ex-husband in the middle of Castle Towers shopping centre in Sydney's northwest.

According to agreed facts tendered at Parramatta Local Court and seen by news.com.au, Ms Tannous was standing outside the Peter Alexander pyjama shop and holding bags of shopping when Mr Criniti arrived on December 29.

"The accused has approached the victim where a brief conversation took place," the court documents state.

Mr Criniti was arrested on York St in Sydney's CBD the following day.

Originally published as Aussie pizza chain saved from collapse


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