A sinkhole is eating my pizzeria

Renato DiBella. (Photo by Carrie Jones Ross)

The first time it happened, Renato DiBella says, it lasted almost three months and he almost lost everything. This time, it’s even worse.

Last March, when a gaping sinkhole mysteriously revealed itself onWashington Avenue, DiBella got no notice, no communication, no heads-up from anyone in city government that his beloved neighborhood pizza business of 14 years, DiBella’s Pizza Shop, was about to be barricaded, blocked-in and closed off. Cut off from the rest of the city with glaring orange barrels.

“I was driving on my way to work and a DPW guy was like, ‘You can’t get there. It’s impossible,’” recalled DiBella. That’s the message all of DiBella’s prospective customers would hear for the next three months — lunchtime business shriveled for the formally high-traffic pizzeria. The daily work trucks containing four guys at a time no longer came in for their slices or subs.


The very same sinkhole reappeared several weeks ago, deeper and wider, and threatening to cost the city $1 million or more to fix. DiBella’s is once again surrounded by blockades and tiny arrows directing would-be customers through a foreboding, mind-boggling maze. That’s a lot of sleuth work for a pie.

This time, DiBella said that though the city did send him a warning shot, it hasn’t made it any easier. “The first year this happened it looked like a carnival out there,” said DiBella. “People ask me all of the time, ‘Does it upset you? Yes … But, I appreciate that I live in a community where people care, and care about supporting a small business, and so because of that I can still function. I’m lacking the ability to function well though.”

DiBella said many customers try to find him and cannot, so they go home and call for a delivery instead. But the lunchtime crowd has all but perished once again, but even emptier than before, despite the presence of some confusing signs with barely visible direction arrows.

A community effort

DiBella said that neighbors and friends are trying to keep him flush by making the effort to get through, but not enough. “Some customers have apologized to me for not stopping in anymore. They say it’s too much. They say it’s confusing, and they don’t know how to get to me anymore. One gentleman apologized to me and said that he’s sorry I am not seeing much of him anymore, but that we are not in his path right now. There’s no other businesses stuck like this.”

DiBella guesstimated that he is losing around $300 worth of business per day. “People feel my pain when they come through the door.”

DiBella is reluctantly contemplating pulling up the tent pegs, though he admits his heart’s not exactly in it. The building was once home to his uncle’s barbershop, a meat market and a candy shop. DiBella said he feels safe, secure and comfortable in the small space of his restaurant, festooned with red, white and green signs of Italian pride. He is also contemplating city business loans to help him limp along until the hole is fixed, whenever that may be. He said DPW has admitted that there’s no knowing when the hole will be repaired, or whether it will happen again.

There is one comment

  1. Kaitlyn Hutchinson

    I lived on Washington Ave, right by DiBella’s Pizzaria last year, when the first round of road closings was dumped upon the neighborhood.
    We woke up to no running water, not to drink, not to shower, not to flush the toilet. It was middle of the week, and a workday for most people. We were given no warning before the city shut it off, and were told (very rudely I might add) when we called that it could be a few hours, or a few days before it was turned back on. No one had any sympathy and acted as if we were out of line for asking questions and looking for answers.
    When DiBella’s business began to suffer, the city turned their nose up at the small business owner, caring little to nothing that a good man was losing his livelihood. Now, although they may be providing more signs to help people navigate the despicable situation they’ve created on Washington Ave, the city is no closer to figuring out when they will get their act together.
    The road has been barricaded for 2 months now, not a few weeks. In that 2 months, there hasn’t been a single city worker actually WORKING at this location. Each time I go by, anyone I see employees of the city standing around, making merry with their friends and co workers, on their phones sitting on the curb, leaning against a truck… But, not a bit of work has actually been done to get closer to opening Washington Ave back up.
    It’s a bit disgusting how little Kingston City cares about bankrupting such a long-standing local business.

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