A Northeast Mesa businessman was forced to change the name of his restaurant, Bellagio, to Milano’s Wood Fired Kitchen and Pizzeria after the Las Vegas hotel and casino of the same name sent a cease-and-desist order.
Mike Bipar said he doesn’t understand why he was chosen when there are plenty of other Bellagio monikers in town.
A Bellagio representative said the logo of the restaurant, located near McKellips and Greenfield roads, was similar to theirs.
“It’s my understanding they were using a logo that was a Bellagio derivative logo,” said Brian Ahern, director of corporate media relations for MGM Resorts International. “They approached them. They agreed to by Aug. 1 no longer use that logo. Protecting intellectual property, it was about the logo, not about the name so much.”
“We had this name for almost 15 to 16 years,” said Bipar, whose previous restaurant was called Papa Jay’s.
Papa Jay’s closed because the name was often confused with Papa John’s, which opened later, Bipar said. His longtime manager came up with the name Bellagio.
“All of a sudden, I received a cease-and-desist letter to take the name down in 25 days,” Bipar said. “I contacted my attorney and they went back and forth. It took almost six months and a lot of money.
“Finally, my attorney told me I had to make a decision to avoid a costly battle. It had already been costly. He said to take my loss right now so let’s change the name. I just can’t fight a big company with a lot of money.”
He has until Aug. 30 to take down anything with Bellagio on it – the name, signs and websites included.
“It’s been costly,” he said. “It’s been more than costly and extremely hard. We’re hoping by Aug. 30 we can move on with the new name.”
Bipar wants customers to know Milano’s Wood Fired Kitchen and Pizzeria still serves the same Mediterranean and Italian food, like lasagna, manicotti and chicken shish kabob. Its Blazin’ Saganaki – fried cheese that is flambeed while folks yell “Opa!” – is a neighborhood favorite. The lasagna is popular as well.
“We make our lasagna completely different than everybody else,” he said. “The lasagna is not from ground beef. It’s from link sausage and meatballs. Ground beef is not seasoned. It never comes out perfectly.
“The meat from the sausage has consistency. It has a lot of taste.”
Bipar, who studied pharmacy at the University of Houston, said he entered the restaurant business 24 years ago “by accident.” A family member was in the industry and he gravitated toward it.
In January, he’s planning a menu overhaul, adding steak but keeping the Mediterranean rice bowls that have proved to be popular. He created the rice bowls after having one at Rubio’s, which he called his favorite restaurant. He offers Greek, Philly barbecue, chicken shawarma, chipotle chicken, falafel, fajita and salmon bowls.
“I am very observant,” he said. “I was looking at the restaurant and 80 percent of the people were ordering rice bowls. I thought about it and I talked to my manager. The Mediterranean rice bowls are completely our concept. No one has the same bowls as us in the United States.”