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Smith & Wollensky parent buys Strega restaurants

Irish investment firm Danu Partners is looking to grow its restaurant business in the United States, and the Strega group in Boston is the next deal on its plate.

Several Strega's restaurants, including the Boston Seaport location, were acquired by the Irish firm that also owns the Smith & Wollensky chain.
Several Strega's restaurants, including the Boston Seaport location, were acquired by the Irish firm that also owns the Smith & Wollensky chain.

An Irish investment firm is looking to grow its restaurant business in the United States, and the Strega group in Boston is the next deal on its plate.

Dublin-based Danu Partners completed its purchase this week of three Strega restaurants and related businesses from the Varano Group, said Michael Feighery, chief executive of the Danu-owned Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“There are a lot of similarities, [including] a similar check average,” Feighery said of the Strega purchase. “They have a great history here in Boston, not dissimilar to how the original Smith & Wollensky was founded in Manhattan.”

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However, the deal does not include Strega North End and two other Italian restaurants in that neighborhood, Nico and Rina’s. The Varano Group will continue to operate them, the companies said in a statement, and Nick Varano will also remain involved with Fratelli, a restaurant at the Encore Boston Harbor casino and hotel in Everett.

Danu created a new holding company, PPX Hospitality Brands, to oversee its US restaurant expansion; PPX will include Smith & Wollensky and Strega, to start. The business will be based at Smith & Wollensky’s headquarters in Medford, and run by Feighery. The Strega division will be overseen by Nick Foley, who is among those joining from the Varano group. Feighery said the two groups, taken together, generate roughly $100 million in annual revenue and have more than 1,000 employees.

Feighery said he expects to save money through joint purchasing and contracting, but he has no plans to lay off employees because of the sale.

Feighery said Varano is a customer of the Smith & Wollensky waterfront location, and had asked about the ownership, so Feighery introduced him to Danu’s partners. Formal sale negotiations picked up in September. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

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Danu acquired the following Strega locations: Strega Waterfront in the Seaport, Strip by Strega in the Park Plaza Hotel, Strega Prime in Woburn, and the five Caffe Strega coffee bars in Boston, along with a related catering business.

Smith & Wollensky operates six locations in the United States, including the waterfront spot and one in Wellesley. The company is growing overseas through licensing agreements, and already has one location in London (also owned by Danu) and in Taiwan. The original Smith & Wollensky, in Manhattan, remains separately owned.


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.