Pernicano's and Casa di Baffi signs along Sixth Avenue in Hillcrest

Pernicano’s and Casa di Baffi sign along Sixth Avenue in Hillcrest

George Pernicano loves the memory of his old restaurants so much he can’t let go, even for the good of the community.

For over two decades his vacant properties have been a black eye on Hillcrest. Closed since 1985, Pernicano’s was once the most popular location in a family chain of pizzerias. Adjacent sat Casa di Baffi (Italian for “House of the Moustache”) that George also operated from 1946-1985. Such a hot spot it was for movie stars, famous athletes and special events! But the once busy Fifth Avenue entrance is now a haven for panhandlers and a canvas for graffiti. Many residents consider these deserted restaurants the neighborhood’s biggest embarrassment.

Urban legends whirl around the property. Some say George won’t sell or lease it because a former wife would receive a portion of the profit. He definitely doesn’t need the money. George bought three percent of the Chargers football team from Barron Hilton in 1961. Others speculate the property owner kept a neon beer sign glowing in the vacant premises for years to satisfy liquor license requirements.

According to the gruff spoken, mustached owner, the building “contains his memories.” In a 2002 interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune he said, “I’m not selling nothing. To sell it would be like selling my body. My body and soul are in there.”

The neighborhood is in dire need of affordable housing, parking and open-space. Wouldn’t it be great if George participated in the advancement of our community? His decaying property consumes 25,000 square feet in the heart of Hillcrest including a large fenced (and empty) parking lot along Sixth Avenue while drivers waste gas circling the block waiting for an open space.

Come on, George. Give something back to the community that made you a wealthy man. Return the favor by restoring this blighted piece of property into something useful. He recently told the local paper, “People still talk about my restaurant all the time.” Perhaps that’s true, George, but not in the fond manner you might assume.

 Here’s an article about George from the Sunday, March 25, 2007 Union-Tribune