Restaurateur’s new pizza place irks owners of eatery he sold

Keywords Hamilton County
I Tre Mori, a new Italian restaurant at 8220 E. 106th St., had a soft opening late last week. (IBJ Photo | Kurt Christian)

The former owner of pizza place Passione Pane in Fishers has now opened a similar eatery five miles away from the restaurant he sold two years ago, irking its current owners.

Sam Chamsine, an Italian-born chef that immigrated to Fishers and opened the Passione Pane pizzeria at 11640 Brooks School Road in 2014, held a soft-opening for his new restaurant, I Tre Mori, last week. The restaurant has menu items that are strikingly similar to Passione Pane, which he sold two years ago, including  wood-fired pizzas and gelato.

The similarities are enough to give Passione’s owners heartburn.

“He double-crossed us,” Passione Co-owner Vicktor Stecenko said. “We feel completely and totally betrayed.”

Stecenko said the parties never signed a non-compete agreement when his family bought Passione in 2019 because Chamsine had said he was moving to Germany. Chamsine told the IBJ he didn’t move to Germany, but instead remained in Fishers to try his hand at other ventures until he felt called to return to running a restaurant.

“I tried to do other things like real estate, translation—I speak four languages—but I can’t see myself out of this business,” Chamsine said. “Everyone starts with some skill, and you will never sell your skill for any reason. I sold the store, not my skills.”

Chamsine said he doesn’t intend to steal Passione’s customers, even though the restaurants are just five miles apart. He said I Tre Mori has counter-service rather than table-service. Additionally, it features pasta dishes, and it doesn’t have any of the calamari or chicken dishes Passione now serves.

As for the similar pizzas, Chamsine said they’re not signature recipes—they’re iconic Italian dishes. Even if the parties had signed a non-compete, Chamsine said it’s possible such a contract would’ve expired in the two years since the sale.

Stecenko said even though he and his family have made significant changes to Passione’s menu since buying the restaurant, the menu and even decor at I Tre Mori will be similar to his restaurant.

Sam Chamsine stokes the fire in his custom-built pizza oven at I Tre Mori, a new Italian restaurant at 8220 E. 106th St. (IBJ Photo | Kurt Christian)

“It’s going to be a rivalry, obviously,” Stecenko said. “It’s just going to be some little pizza war between us now.”

Stecenko said he feels foolish now for not signing a non-compete, but his family is just going to continue to focus on its restaurant.

Chamsine took over the former 2,000-square-foot Della Leva Espresso Bar last July, but it took six months to custom-build and import a wood-fire oven from Italy that can reach nearly 1,000 degrees to cook a pizza in just 45 seconds. It then took another three months to get the state’s approval to put in a special ventilation system that reduces the oven’s carbon emissions.

Chamsine said he plans to hold a grand opening for I Tre Mori next month. Currently, the restaurant has room for about 30 diners inside and about 25 outside. That will double once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, but for now, Chamsine said he’s sticking to socially distancing and sanitizing surfaces between each guest.

He’s hired four workers already and is planning to hire up to 15 employees once everything is up and running.

“COVID or not, it’s not going to stop me from doing what I like,” Chamsine said. “I love this business, and I’m really happy to do something I’ve always done.”

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

11 thoughts on “Restaurateur’s new pizza place irks owners of eatery he sold

  1. He’s spot-on. Great addition for this side of I-69. Passion Pane is good, but we’d never drive the 5 miles (15 minutes each way in Fishers traffic) to go get it – I see very little competition/stealing of business in play.

    1. Going the speed limit it would take you 10 min with no stop lights. Fishers traffic is light compared to other cities yet people complain about it all the time. SMH

      Stecenko should have had a non-compete, that’s on him. Passione Pane hasn’t been the same since Sam left. Looking forward to driving a whole 10 minutes in awful Fishers traffic to check the new place out!

    2. OK, even if 10 minutes (to appease you, google says 13 from my home) – 20 minutes roundtrip, assuming the pizza is ready the exact moment you arrive and you can quickly pay and then get back down 116th and over I-69 to your house… best case scenario your pizza is 15 minutes from oven to table? No thanks.

  2. It’s ironic to see comments saying “it’s not competition its on the other side”, but then saying “can’t wait to drive the distance to Sam’s place”.

    Yes, it is on Stecenko for not doing a non-complete, but it is still a scummy move to do something so similar so close. This is why franchises have area agreements.

  3. We went recently and it was a HOT MESS, we waited almost 2 hours for a pizza, and 2 of them were wrong. SO some in our party waited well over 2 hours for A pizza. The food was good but it was highly unorganized and just chaotic as all else. And sounds kinda like a scumbag move but shame on the buyer for not using a business attorney…