Eastie’s Italian Express latest victim of the COVID pandemic

East Boston’s Italian Express Pizzeria, a mainstay restaurant in the Jeffries Point Neighborhood, has gone from appearing on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive Ins and Dives to being forced to shut its doors–much to the shock of the community. 

“We regret to inform you that Italian Express Pizzeria is now closed because of issues due to the pandemic,” read the announcement published by owners Jim Iannuzzi and Jonathan Harker on Facebook and Instagram. “Thank you for your many years of patronage and support.”

Iannuzzi and Harker’s appearance on Guy Fieri’s popular Food Network road trip eating show that showcases the best of the best in each state made the duo local celebrities and brought tons of business their way for several years. 

However, when the pandemic hit, Iannuzzi and Harker were forced to close the restaurant for indoor dining and ran only a take-out and delivery operation throughout the height of the pandemic. Once COVID restrictions were lifted it seems that Italian Express, like many other popular Boston restaurants, was unable to bounce back. 

According to a listing on Coldwell Banker the restaurant, located at 336 Sumner St., was put up for sale by Iannuzzi back in July with an asking price of $1,499,998. 

“Here is a chance to own the best spot in Boston in the most desirable sought after Jeffries Point neighborhood,” read the listing published by Iannuzzi. “Located on the corner of Sumner Street and Cottage street the heart of the community and the home of the world famous Italian Express Pizzeria featured on three Food Network Shows. Surrounded by many new developments and businesses this building is truly one of a kind and world famous. Features many updates with plenty of storage space, a large basement and attic with a very rare-to-East Boston large patio for outdoor dining. Possible for developing if you get approvals from the City of Boston. Don’t Miss out on this chance to own a property like this.”

The ad also said the business name and liquor license are “negotiable”.

In the 2000s Iannuzzi and Harker bought the rights to Italian Express from the late Victor Grillo who founded the restaurant on the corner of Maverick and Orleans Streets in the 1990s. Grillo moved the location to Orient Heights prior to selling the restaurant to Iannuzzi and Harker but the duo later decided to relocate back to the Jeffries Point neighborhood. 

The restaurant became a favorite in Jeffries Point and gained the attention of Diners, Drive Ins and Dives and appeared on the show and showcased some of their favorite dishes. 

The reaction from the community was nothing but love, warmth and well wishes for the two cooks that provided great meals to residents over the years.

“Such sad news,” said Mary-Ellen Rodrigues. “Jim and John, you ran such a fabulous restaurant. Be proud of all that you have accomplished. Everything happens for a reason and in time you will understand that something else is in your future. You’re both very special.”

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