Nello Balan Pulls Ahead In Race To Be Manhattan's Most Loathsome Restaurateur

by BILLY GRAY · December 4, 2009

Crazed "society" restaurateur Nello Balan could use some pointers on giving the star treatment and also on not completely screwing over his pitiable staff.

It used to be that owners of celebrity clubhouses guarded the secrecy of their customers and stayed mum on their misbehavior.  Elaine Kaufman, Nell Campbell, Amy Sacco: they knew that that the stars used their fame to get in the door, but wanted to forget its trappings once inside. Not Nello. Balan's latest disgrace stems from a suit filed by four ex-employees who claim Nello bilked them out of $100,000 a year in tips at his eponymous UES Italian eatery. They say the money was split between Balans's daughter, his driver and the restaurant's managers (who of course pocketed the cash lavished upon them by people deluded enough to want a table).

The staff's lawsuit arrives just as another one might be looming. Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich is reportedly considering legal action against Balan, who he is convinced leaked a phony bill that implied Abramovich spent over $47,000 on lunch at the restaurant. (The meal came to a small fraction of that price). Then there was the photograph that somehow implied Jay Z and Beyonce had left a $500 tip on a $1,200 bill. We were skeptical then and remain so.

Let's also not forget that in 2006 Balan pleaded guilty to kicking his girlfriend in the groin and asphyxiating her. So, people who have the money to eat at Nello's and lack the taste to know better, please head to Cipriani when you're in the mood for overpriced and overrated Italian food. It's not like there's any scandal in that neck of the woods.