A clever but often controversial Forest Park restaurateur has put his latest dining establishment up for sale.
The Shuckin’ Grill oyster bar and restaurant which opened less than a year ago is for sale. An Internet listing states that the asking price is $750,000. The Shuckin’ Grill is the latest restaurant owned by Robert Marani in the multi-use building he owns at the southeast corner of Circle and Madison.
Contacted by phone this week, Marani confirmed that the restaurant is for sale but would not give details.
“All of that information is for the public, and at this point in time I’m going to refrain from comment,” Marani said. “I’m going to go ahead and move forward and just try to handle what’s going on in my world.”
Shuckin’ Grill is the third restaurant Marani has opened at 410 Circle. In 2003 he opened the Italian restaurant La Piazza there with head chef Gaetano DiBenedetto. La Piazza became a popular dining spot and received rave reviews. One restaurant guide even called it one of the best Italian restaurants in the country.
But La Piazza closed in 2008 after Marani and DiBenedetto had a dispute. Marani sued DiBenedetto after demanding that DiBenedetto pay him $6,800 a month in rent.
DiBenedetto later opened up his own restaurant a few blocks west on Madison Street.
Marani closed La Piazza and replaced it with La Bella Bistecca, an upscale steakhouse, but it never took off. Marani said last summer that the declining economy hurt and he opened up the less expensive and more casual Shuckin’ Grill last summer.
The Shuckin’ Grill has received mixed reviews on the restaurant review Internet site Yelp.com with some customers rating it highly, while complained about the food, service and prices.
Prior to opening La Piazza, Marani operated a bar and music venue called The Playhouse and then a tapas restaurant at what is now the location of Francesca Fiore. Marani’s Tutto Tapas was one of the first upscale, trendy dining establishments on Madison Street.
In recent years, Marani has been beset by troubles as he converted 18 apartments above the building that houses Shuckin’ Grill and two retail shops into condominiums. Owners complained about leaky roofs and unfinished units. In 2008 seven condo owners filed suit against Marani.
Marani also faced a foreclosure action last year.