Café Milano, an Italian restaurant in Georgetown, is suing its former manager for allegedly breaching his contract by secretly agreeing to work for a soon-to-open competitor months before announcing his resignation.
The restaurant, represented by ShawnCoulson in Washington, claimed Antonio Ferraro ran afoul of the non-compete clause in his contract by accepting an offer to work at Fiola Mare, a new restaurant set to open soon in Georgetown.
Contract information was unavailable for Ferraro. A lawyer for Fiola Mare, Mark Sandground of Kalbian Hagerty, declined to comment, as did Café Milano's lead attorney William Shawn.
According to the complaint, filed Dec. 20 in District of Columbia Superior Court, Ferraro began working at Café Milano in 2007 after the restaurant supported his immigration application from Italy. As he rose through the ranks, the restaurant said, he learned trade secrets and other sensitive information about the restaurant's business.
"Mr. Ferraro had regular and intimate dealings with our most valued clientele, access to our clients' most confidential data … and a host of market intelligence we carefully and consistently compiled, including our confidential marketing plans and strategies," said Francesco Nuchese, president and chief executive office of the restaurant's parent company, Prospect Café Milano Inc., in an affidavit filed with the complaint.
Ferraro, according to court papers, signed a contract that included a non-compete clause barring him from working at another restaurant within a 25-mile radius of Washington for five years after leaving Café Milano.
Ferraro submitted a resignation letter on Dec. 2, according to the complaint. The restaurant said that when it searched its computer system, it found a binding letter of employment between Ferraro and Fiola Mare dated July 16.
Café Milano claims Ferraro ignored a letter the restaurant sent demanding he comply with the non-compete clause. The restaurant’s lawyers are scheduled to appear before a judge on Dec. 26 to argue for a temporary restraining order.