Manhattan pizzeria shutters after 36 years

- This was not the day Dimitri "Jimmy" Vezyrakis wanted to close his pizza shop, but with rent prices nearly doubling he had no choice. Caesar's Palace Pizza had been an Upper West Side staple for 36 years. Vezyrakis emigrated from Greece when he was 14 and opened the pizza parlor when he was 21.

"I'm heartbroken the way it happened the management company gave me two weeks to sign my life to the devil," he said.

Surrounded by friends, members of the community and elected officials, the Vezyrakis family held a rally outside their gutted pizza shop Monday. The crowd also noted that this is not an isolated incident. Mom-and-pop shops all over the Upper West Side have been forced to shut down due to rent hikes over the past few years.

An attorney for the building's landlord, Peter Magnone, responded in a statement.

"Mr. Magnone denies the allegations in their entirety. Caesar's, by way of their attorney, voluntarily agreed to vacate the building today," the attorney said. "Unfortunately, Caesar's is now using the press in an effort to gain free publicity for its new business."

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