Former North End eatery wins $8.5 million for Big Dig disruptions

A jury on Thursday awarded $8.5 million to the now-defunct Joe Tecce's Restaurant, once a North End landmark, for business disruptions during the Big Dig highway construction project.

A spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation confirmed the verdict and said the agency will probably appeal.

The Tecce family sued the state in 2004, alleging that construction on Interstate 93 outside its doors restricted access to the North Washington Street restaurant for years and that noise and vibrations from heavy machinery drove customers away.

Sal Tecce, one of Joe's three sons who co-owned the business, told the Globe in 2011 that sales dropped 50 percent during the Big Dig.


The brothers, Sal, Robert, and Joe Jr., and a sister, Jacqueline, could not be reached for comment Thursday evening. Joe Sr. died in 2006 at age 94.

Though the highway project ended in 2007, business did not recover. Tecce's filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011 and closed later that year.

A favorite eatery of politicians and celebrities from 1948 to the mid-1990s, Tecce's attracted a loyal clientele with dishes like lobster fra diavolo and steak mafia alla marinara. Luminaries who dined there included Tip O'Neill, Michael Dukakis, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Al Pacino, Nat King Cole, Bobby Orr, and Larry Bird.

The restaurant's demise was slow and painful. For a while, Tecce family members pitched in personal funds to keep the business going, but eventually the restaurant fell more than $500,000 in debt.

The brothers planned to keep Tecce's open when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Three months later, they said the restaurant would close temporarily for renovations, and two months after that many of its assets were sold at auction.

"It was like a thousand paper cuts that finally caught up to me and bled me to death," Sal Tecce said in the 2011 Globe interview.


Callum Borchers can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.