Mark Iacono, the owner of Lucali, the tiny, brick-oven pizzeria in Carroll Gardens favored by Beyoncé Knowles, Jay-Z, and schools chancellor Joel Klein, is learning that being top dog isn’t always a good thing. Last October, the Zagat survey crowned his slightly charred, three-cheese pizza the best pie in the city, a surprise upset over reigning champ, Domenico DeMarco’s Di Fara in Midwood. As it turns out, pizza fans weren’t the only ones paying attention.
Two weeks after the ranking appeared, the state Department of Taxation and Finance notified Iacono that it would audit his two-year-old business, where he also works as the sole pizza chef. “I don’t think it was coincidental,” says Iacono, a former marble-and-granite fabricator. He says he asked tax officials why he was under scrutiny when they paid his restaurant a visit last year: “They said, ‘You guys are the No. 1 pizzeria.’” Susan Burns, a spokeswoman for the state’s Tax Department, declined to comment on the audit, but said, “We wouldn’t select a business for auditing based solely on a ranking.” She added, however, that the deficit-ridden state is taking a closer look at the books of cash-only operations like Lucali’s. Iacono says he knows he’s not in bad company. Last year, state officials briefly shut down Grimaldi’s, another Zagat favorite, in a dispute over unpaid sales taxes.