After 25 years in the CNMI, current challenges proved too much for international brands and local icons Tony Roma’s and Capricciosa. Their mother company, Triple J, announced Friday the closure of the two restaurants this month.
According Triple J chair and CEO Robert Jones, the twin closures are a difficult decision to make. “The economy is posing unprecedented challenges for local businesses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, most especially businesses like our restaurants that rely heavily on our tourism and hospitality industry. While we are confident that the economy will eventually recover, there is just too much uncertainty on how soon that will be,” he said.
“We have done our best to try and navigate through this uncharted territory and have exhausted all options, so much that after much deliberation, we have made the difficult decision to close our doors this month,” he added.
In the U.S. mainland, retail and restaurant businesses have been hit the hardest by the pandemic and its effects are being felt elsewhere in the world, including the CNMI where tourism is the main source of income of many businesses and the local economy.
Tony Roma’s, known worldwide for its American cuisine with ribs and steak as specialties, and Capricciosa, known for its Southern Italian dishes, originally opened its doors on Saipan in 1997 at the La Fiesta Mall in San Roque.
Many residents took to Facebook to express surprise and sadness that these restaurants are closing. On Tony Roma’s page, Szasza Repane Wenceslao wrote that she is very sad to hear the news, while Letty Narito Mateo was optimistic, “There will be no goodbyes, Tony Roma’s. We will wait for your reopening.”
Another resident, Yogi Singh, recalls dining at Capricciosa in 2005 when it was still at the La Fiesta Mall. “I remember every Tuesday was ‘eat-all-you-can pasta’ and it was always a great dining experience with friends. They had a great ambiance at La Fiesta and it is sad to see this restaurant close again this time. It is a shame that businesses are forced to close due to the pandemic. It is like an avalanche that started and will not stop until thigs go back to normal or until we get a vaccine,” he said.
Other Triple J Restaurants such as Surf Club Restaurant and Great Harvest Bakery and Café, both in Chalan Kanoa, will continue to operate and plans to re-open Bubba Gump in Garapan is in the works, when market conditions improve.
According to Jones, Triple J will maintain both franchise licenses with the hope of reopening in the future at another location. “Our priority at this time is to ensure the wellbeing of our dedicated and passionate team members, some of whom have been in our restaurants for over a decade. We are extremely proud of our team and their perseverance over the last several months in being able to adjust and adapt to our new normal and even taking part in providing meals to feed local families and front line workers during the pandemic. They are the heart of our restaurant sand helped us fulfill our mission of quality food with a strong sense of community. …We are also most grateful for the community’s support since Tony Roma’s and Capricciosa’s opened in the ’90s. No question that we couldn’t have made it this far without the loyal patronage of the CNMI residents over the years,” he added.