Cuchi Guidos Shut Down

Brent Finnegan -- August 20th, 2010

Cuchi Guidos, a New Jersey-style pizza and sub restaurant in downtown Harrisonburg, was open a little under seven months before they closed their doors last week. TV3 reports that the some employees haven’t been paid.

“I’m not the only one they haven’t paid. They haven’t paid several of their employees,” says John Roe, who used to be a cook at Cuchi Guidos.

He had worked at the restaurant for several weeks, and he says not getting paid wasn’t out of the ordinary . . .

Roe adds that the restaurant was not open this past weekend, because the owners didn’t pay their gas bill.

Two calls to the restaurant went unanswered, and the voicemail box is full (as of Friday morning).

It’s unclear what reviews WHSV reporter Tom Dempsey is referring to when he reported, “Its food got great reviews, and customers often raved about the pizza and cheese steaks.” Cuchi Guidos was panned by many readers for having poor service. It received a 25 percent score on Urban Spoon, and one out of five stars on Yelp.

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71 Responses to “Cuchi Guidos Shut Down”

  1. Bill says:

    Never made in the door for two reasons.
    1. The name
    2. The bad reviews Brent mentions

  2. Kevin Edwards says:

    Same. I never carry a cell phone and I never went to Cuchi Guidos. I’ve got a feeling my life is fine without both.

  3. seth says:

    i did make it in once when some friends had chosen to hang out there and i had a nice enough time (and i didn’t get a cell phone until 05, but now i don’t know how i’d live w/o it, so kev, you’re a better man than i on all fronts :) ). i think that their initially provocative marketing (as well as the bs back peddling regarding that campaign) and a kind of supercilious attitude/belief that they were going to show this town what ‘real’ jersey food was like (and we were going to love it) kind of doomed them from the get go.

    however, i’m going to go out on a limb and say that the number one reason that no one will be able to make it in that location has a lot less to do with their business model and a lot more to do with the cantankerous owner of the building who i don’t hear get dogged nearly enough in this town.

  4. Melanie says:

    Funny, this morning I was just thinking about how I never planned to eat there because the whole jersey shore/guidos fad is annoying to me and any business trying to milk the questionably derogatory term isn’t high on my priority list. I’m not sad to see it go.

  5. John says:

    It had good food. I’m always unhappy to see a business (especially a restaurant with good food) fail in H-Burg.

  6. I never went there, and somehow or another they got off on the wrong foot with their name and initial publicity. But I knew the now deceased father of the person who ran the Luigi’s there, and the father had unpleasant words to say about the building owner. So, there may be something to that.

    It was probably also bad timing to open late in the spring as I think their best potential set of customers were probably students who would be more into their whole Guido’s thing. But they did not quite make it through the summer drought to get the rain of the returning students this fall.

    • Callie says:

      Gus owns that building (Gus as in the Gus who owns Jess’s quick lunch) He is not pleasant to work for or work with for that matter.

  7. Drew Richard says:

    This has been coming for awhile. Could have told you when I went there the day it opened that it wouldn’t last long. They took away too many seats for as high as the rent is. The food was decent, but they had to charge way too much for okay food because the rent for that building is too high and has now claimed another restaurant. There was no way it was going to stay open with a maximum capacity of 30 customers and questionable service at best. I hate to see places in Harrisonburg go under, especially downtown, but their business model was terrible. Oh, and way too much money on TERRIBLE marketing.

  8. David Miller says:

    someone tell Dave to reopen 14 Carrots, it could probably make it now.

    • nicklaus combs says:

      i thought the food at 14 carrots was mediocre at best/definitely overpriced and with a restaurant like the grill already operating it seems very unnecessary considering the niche market it served.

    • Emmy says:

      I didn’t go to 14 Carrots when it was open and now I really wish it was still there!

  9. David Miller says:

    Nick, while I agree with the duplicity issue I am so very lazy that I rarely venture out. Even when out is a half mile to the Grill. I actually wish they’d move closer but alas the world does not revolve around my idiosyncrasies

  10. kuato says:

    I had bad food at Cuchi Guidos. Bad. I wasn’t going to eat there again, and I have heard the same story from many others. Add that to the initial distaste the resturaunt provoked and I think it is safe to say it never stood a chance.

    Don’t know Gus and can’t comment, but I would like to see a restaurant succeed in that spot. I have only been in Harrisonburg for the two most recent failures, but I don’t think either can be blamed on the building owner. I hope someone tries again.

    • DebSF says:

      I’d also like to see something go into where the Daily Grind used to be. That would seem to be a terrific location.

  11. I’m pretty sure that the failure of the Old Dominion Coffee Shoppe can be blamed on the owners of that building…jacking up the rent on a small business owner in the middle of a recession ain’t that bright.

    • Emmy says:

      I’m sure that had something to do with it, but personally I tend to think it had more to do with the crappy service and terribly rude employees. It was like you had to be rude to work there.

      • Jackson says:

        There are a lot of things this could be contributed to however, I say it boiled down to poor management.

      • Brooke says:

        Old Dominion was one of the places we went most downtown, and we never had bad service there.

        • Emmy says:

          You were very lucky then. I gave that place and the downtown Luigi’s way more chances than I should have.

        • I agree with Brooke. I never once had bad service there.

          With a glut of downtown space available, you’re just shooting yourself in the foot if you’re jacking up rent on someone’s business. As I understand it, the owners of the building are local Democrat activists…perhaps it’s just a basic misunderstanding of economics…wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen that problem in Democrats. :-)

          • Brooke says:

            How did this turn into a political thing, Dave? I don’t think any one political party has a corner on the market for greed. ;-)

          • Dave Briggman says:

            I’m not sure it was greed, but I’m pretty sure it was the lack of knowledge of economics.

          • Dave,

            From what I hear, the owner of the building that Cuchi Guido’s has been in favors the Republicans. So, would not appear to be a particularly politically tied vice, even if the former owner of Old Dominion somehow thinks so. Plenty of people can be stupid.

  12. JL says:

    What’s needed downtown: a diner, a deli, a coffee shop. Ever try to go to a diner on Sunday morning? Ok…Little Grill (which is usually packed), anywhere else nearby that’s not named IHOP? Oh, and a bar with pool tables and ping pong.

  13. BN says:

    I had two terrible experiences at this restaurant. The first one took over an hour to bring us water and the food was terrible (not to mention the messed up our order) and it was overpriced at that. Went back later for our ‘free pizza’ that they gave us to try to make up for our bad service the first time, and they scowled that we were using it and again it took 45 min. for a pizza! Glad to see this place go (and I too want downtown H’burg businesses to be successful–just not that one).

  14. I do not know the numbers involved, but I really am suspicious that we may have some short-sighted landlords in downtown Harrisonburg who have bought a little too much into the huffing and puffing by all our Downtown Renaissance folks, whom I fully support btw. It is more that some of these landlords may have gotten it into their heads that they can charge rents that are really a bit too much for what the market can bear in these times of still struggling to get out of a bad recession. That the former Daily Grind/Old Dominion space is still empty after more than half a year is a pretty good sign that the rent is too high there.

    Cuchi Guido’s probably had it coming, but there have been problems with others in there before. I do not know how many other buildings downtown are suffering from the same problem.

    • seth says:

      rent being too high was one of the primary reasons that the art collective that lived, for a brief while, on the third floor of the newman ruddle building (the one ODC coffee used to be in) was disbanded (in fairness to the building’s owners, it was also due in large part to the fact that the collective never really got organized in terms of recruiting new members (although in fairness to those in the collective, it was pretty tough to sell local artists on paying over $120 a month to share studio space).

      • Flanna says:

        I don’t live in Harrisonburg anymore, but I am back on a visit. Driving by Cuchi Guidos I thought, ‘That’s a dumb, not very clever name. There is no reason for me to go there.’

        But I wouldn’t lay blame on landlords for ventures that haven’t panned out. Like Gus or not, the owners of the restaurant did not have to rent a space they couldn’t afford.

        As far as the Ruddle building goes — it’s a shame to hear about a failed artists’ collective, but Court Square is prime property. Was it necessary to have studio space there? I share studio space with 4 other bands. It is only affordable because our “collective” uses a space cheap enough we can afford–albeit quite far off the beaten path

        Overall, my point is this: blaming landlords for failed businesses or projects does not make much sense. Unless they have drastically increased the rent, the responsibility of not being able to afford the rent lies with the entity that chose to rent space they could not afford.

      • Phil says:

        As the primary leaseholder for the 3on3 Arts Collective Seth’s referring to, I have to say that it’s news to me that the “high rent” was a primary issue. In fact, it was never discussed as an issue during any of our meetings. Certain usage restrictions and the requirement of individual leases were the fatal blows to the collective. We had a list of artists who were interested in joining us under the original arrangement, but balked at the new one (which didn’t include a rent increase). Where the collective miscalculated was that we never made a real effort to make enough money with our art in the space to offset the costs involved…we were putting that off until the first anticipated expansion. I honestly think that if another collective was attempted, using the lessons learned by all sides, that it would be far more successful.

        For the record, my studio was still in the space used by the collective (from July-December 2008) until earlier this month, when I moved into the office adjacent to it. I seriously doubt the owners will have much of a problem renting that prime real estate overlooking Court Square.

        Restaurants are notoriously iffy ventures, even in a stable economy. Trying to get loans to open one can be nearly impossible–believe me, I tried a number of years ago. And there are so many planets that need to align for an eatery to be a hit that it’s not really surprising to see such a high turnover rate. To me, it seems that pointing fingers at the landlords for “unreasonable” rent is as nonsensical as blaming the employees for getting paid what they are.

        • seth says:

          so you don’t recall the discussions of paying additional rent for a hall that was shared space and either finding new members to pay for new space opening up or shouldering that cost ourselves?

          • Phil says:

            Oh, I remember the plan was that whenever new space opened up, we would taken on new members who would pay the same rent share that we were. It wouldn’t have resulted in an increase in individual members’ rent. I checked the meeting minutes to be sure I wasn’t mistaken about that.

  15. mikekeane says:

    I never ate at Cuici Guidos because it wasn’t vegan friendly. NJ/NY pizza IS superior though and if they had vegan slices I would have braved the crowd/vibe to try it. 14 Carrots was pretty good. Perhaps it would work now. I heard Dave ‘Taverna’ Miller just opened it experimentally to ride out the last year of his lease with Gus and didn’t put a lot of money into it. Which, even as a vegan, I can’t blame him for. Newuigi’s (Luigi’s on main) just didn’t have the great food of the 42 location even though they had a fryer and and expanded menu. They had a pretty good albeit smokey vibe.

    I liked Old Dominion Coffee alright as a nice alternative to the Artful Dodger but ultimately went there only 1/10 times I went downtown for coffee. Its a neat building and great location – can’t believe its not filled yet. As for L&S diner – again being from NJ where diners are a cultural institution – I can’t believe they operate on those limited hours. Its a small staff and small building I’d recommend trying expanding the hours and menu. Jess’s never did much for me even before I went Vegan, and has generally been fairly unfriendly. That new place Brooklyn’s on 33 and Mason is the type diner we need. its got a huge menu. I’ve only eaten there once, it was OK. good service, mediocre food – i’d try it again. Thought Union Station’s vibe sucked despite good staff when i went in once for drinks. Were those Massanutten tourists?! Again, Oddly for a vegan, I love the vibe at The Local, but I’ve mostly just gotten drinks. They did a wonderful job on my vegan special requests and fixed the hotel bar vibe of downtown 56. Haven’t eaten at the new Cally’s yet. I like Beyond’s drinks, staff and decor but what’s with the blaring 80’s music!? Haven’t been to the newish wine place yet. Woah that turned into a rant.

  16. mikekeane says:

    I never ate at Cuici Guidos because it wasn’t vegan friendly. NJ/NY pizza IS superior though and if they had vegan slices I would have braved the crowd/vibe to try it. 14 Carrots was pretty good. Perhaps it would work now. I heard Dave ‘Taverna’ Miller just opened it experimentally to ride out the last year of his lease with Gus and didn’t put a lot of money into it. Which, even as a vegan, I can’t blame him for. Newuigi’s (Luigi’s on main) just didn’t have the great food of the 42 location even though they had a fryer and and expanded menu. They had a pretty good albeit smokey vibe. I hope the next place in there utilizes the pizza ovens and finds a work around for the awkward seating issue, and of course has vegan options.

  17. mikekeane says:


  18. William Knorpp says:

    I went there once and the food wasn’t great, but I’d have probably tried it again if not for that weirdly off-putting name…

  19. John says:

    “I never ate at Cuici Guidos because it wasn’t vegan friendly.”
    Are you kidding me? This is Harrisonburg, VA! Get over it prima donna.

    • Grant Penrod says:

      I had Prima Donna’s “Like a Vegan” single in middle school. Great record.

    • Emmy says:

      Were you the owner of this restaurant by any chance?

      Do you not realize that there are vegetarians and vegans in this community even if they are not the norm and if you offer nothing that they can eat, then they have no reason to come to your establishment. You may not care about that one customer, but when you consider that when a group of people go out for a meal together dietary restrictions do arise. So, chances are the vegan will have a lot of say in where the group goes thus losing a lot more than just the one customer.

  20. John says:

    “I went there once and the food wasn’t great, but I’d have probably tried it again if not for that weirdly off-putting name…”
    Seriously? You chose your restaurants by their names and you’re put off by Cuici Guidos? How amazingly shallow! I’m glad that your “safe” names like McDonalds, Burger King, Red Lobster, Jess’s Lunch, Shoneys and IHOP give you the healthy meal that you desire. Do they make you less scared?

    • Emmy says:

      Clearly you don’t know much about food or dining. The presentation of a meal is just as important as the meal itself. The name of a restaurant is part of the presentation of the meal. It’s a package. I wasn’t “offended” by the name, but it did nothing to make me want to eat there that’s for sure.

    • Brooke says:

      I’ll admit I was put off by the name as well – especially paired with a tagline like “Everybody wants a little Cuchi” And no, I don’t choose my restaurants primarily by name, but it is a consideration. If I hear the food is just ok, and the service is lousy (which seemed to be the general consensus for this place) AND the name seems to be capitalizing on tackiness, then I’m even less likely to go there. *shrug*. And I’m not a huge fan of any of the restaurants you listed, so your point is kind of silly. ;-)

    • Scott says:

      Feeling a little defensive there John? Judging by the aesthetic and ostentatious marketing strategy of Cuchi Guidos, I would be more likely to put them among the ranks of the franchises you mentioned than the many unique restaurants downtown. And, speaking for myself, I was never scared of the place. It’s just that a name like Cuchi Guidos coupled with choices like putting out Craig’s List ads looking for hot ladies to play music and wait tables sent out a very sleazy vibe. I’m sure there is a niche market for it, but I think the people you are addressing just aren’t a part of it.

    • Hey, while we are at it on names and worrying about politics and all that, what is with “Red Lobster”? Are they Republicans? I doubt it, since the name predates when red got associated with the GOP, back when red was the color of communism, which it still is pretty much anywhere but in the US. So, I suspect that they are a bunch of secret commies, just like those dangerous people over at Red Front. One has to be very very careful about names! :-)

    • William Knorpp says:

      It is what it is–and, although my reaction was weird (as I tried to acknowledge), it wasn’t “shallow.” You do know what that word means, right?

      I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but the name struck me as being some artless attempt to sidle up to vulgarity. Eroticism: cool by me. Vulgarity: stupid and off-putting. For whatever reason, I found the name extremely irritating, and that ended up being a factor.

      I did try the place, though, and had it been good, I’d have gone back. As it was, bad food + dopey name –> no second chance.

      And “scared”? Where’d that come from?

      Cool your jets, dude. You’re not making any sense.

  21. Art says:

    And this is a surprise why?
    The service was horrible. People would go in….wait…finally seat themselves,….never be waited on…then get up and leave.
    Often heard the owner was a real jerk.
    Maybe we can get a real restaurant in there now?

    • Eso says:

      Yeah. I really wanted it to work out as much as the name annoyed the femi-Nazis. But close to an hour to bring out a sub is sad. I kept hoping they would get their act together, but I guess they never did.

  22. MF says:

    Market Research is an important part of opening and running a good restaurant. When it was obvious that the town was a bit off set by the name before the place even opened a smart businessman might have considered a name change. We are in the middle of Mennonite Country, it is a totally reasonable thought that the local customers may take offense to that name.

  23. David Miller says:

    Monday morning QBs are pretty tiresome to business owners, just saying! Is it unreasonable to just assume that things weren’t right with the place without trashing it further, I mean they are out of business right? I can’t claim to have enjoyed the place but consider this analogy:

    No one posts online comments about deceased people and how they were so fat and awful while they were alive, it would be in poor taste. People do talk this way but normally in quiet hushed tones because they know what they’re saying is rude and in poor taste.

    Just my two cents

    • Emmy says:

      Well while I understand what you are saying, I think this is a little different. These same things were said here (and many other places) while the restaurant was still “alive” and clearly the owner ignored it all. So, I think now people are not feeling so sorry for the guy given that he did virtually nothing to prevent his fate.

      • David Miller says:

        Emmy, I respect that but I do wonder if now that the place is closed, do we really need to spit on its grave?

        I’ve never owned a restaurant but I know that a ton of money goes into opening one, can you put yourself in their shoes? You just lost it all and now there are people yelling I told you so. That’s all I’m saying.

        • james mchone says:

          Dave Miller is exactly right… let the restaurant rest in peace. It is over and someone lost a lot money and people are now out of work. It is always sad. Just my opinion.

        • Emmy says:

          Yes I agree.

    • Sharon says:

      Very well said, David. We should all remember that there are now several employees who have not been paid and are not out of work. I feel for them I have worked for restaurant employers who didn’t pay me and some whose paychecks bounced. It’s not fun and I understand exactly what they are now going through. They did keep listing an ad on Craigslist for servers and I tried to apply there twice. I realized that although I don’t look it, I am older than the 20 somethings that they wanted and so they would tell me they weren’t hiring. And they weren’t nice about it. That is what me never want to eat there and at the same time, I knew they weren’t going to make it with that sort of attitude. Not to want me is one thing, I get that. But you must be nice about it. I am a potential customer as well. But at any rate, it is sad to see any business fail, no matter how you may feel about them.

  24. Delataire says:

    I noticed that Water Street Cafe is being replaced with another wine bar.

  25. Paul in the Burg says:

    The schadenfreude was pretty good…

  26. MB Green says:

    I actually heard from several sources that the food at Cuchi Guidos was outstanding. The problem was that it was really expensive and the service terrible. I went in there once thinking I’d get a sub for lunch. I stood there for 15 minutes and the staff ignored me. I went back to the office and ordered from Chanellos. I never went back to Cuchi Guidos, and that name was extremely offensive. Did you ever hear the radio ads?

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