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Smith & Wollensky parent buys Boston’s Strega group

The two operations are the foundation of a new holding company backed by Ireland’s Danu Partners.
Photograph: Shutterstock

The parent of the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse brand has acquired the Strega group, a collection of Italian chophouses and cafes operating in Boston, from The Varano Group, a larger multiconcept operation based there.

The acquisition price and other terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The buyers, Ireland-based Danu Partners, said it has formed a new holding company called PPX Hospitality Brands to operate the two restaurant groups, which collectively number about a dozen locations. Both groups are headquartered in Boston.

Smith & Wollensky CEO and 35-year veteran Michael Feighery has been given the additional responsibility of leading PPX as CEO.

“Following the successful acquisition of the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group in 2016, the acquisition of The Strega Group is an attractive opportunity to add highly complementary Boston-based operating businesses to our hospitality portfolio,” Leonard Ryan, a principal of Danu, said in a statement. “We believe in the long-term potential of this market and look forward to investing in these restaurants and the talented teams that operate them.”

Danu has its roots in television sports broadcasting. Ryan, Mark O’Meara and Michael O’Rourke founded the company to acquire a collection of channels called Setanta Sports, which they sold to ESPN in 2007 and is now known as ESPN America.

The company is focused today on hospitality investing. In addition to its two U.S. restaurant holdings, the firm owns and operates the Mercantile Group, a collection of restaurants and hotels in Ireland. 

Smith & Wollensky is a high-end steakhouse brand founded in New York City in 1977 by Alan Stillman, who is also the founder of TGI Fridays. A signature of the concept is its green and white exteriors. Stillman still owns the original restaurant, a midtown landmark. That outlet grossed $25.5 million last year, placing it sixth on Restaurant Business'Top 100 Independents ranking.

The chain now extends to six other U.S. locations as well as outposts in London and Taipei. 

The acquired Strega properties include Strega Waterfront, Strip by Strega, Strega Prime and Cafe Strega, all located in Boston. 

The original Strega restaurant, Strega North End, will continue to be owned and operated by Varano Group, which was launched by Bostonian Nick Varano in 2003. 

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