What's in a name? For one Valley restaurant, it's everything.
Bellagio Pizzeria is taking a gamble and changing its name after 15 years, thanks to a legal battle with the Bellagio Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.
The restaurant started going by "Milano's" a few months ago, but the name change caused a lot of confusion for customers.
"A lot of our regulars, they don't even know we're still here," said General Manager Sam Putrus. "They try to go for 'Bellagio' and there's no 'Bellagio.'"
It was business as usual at the pizzeria near McKellips and Greenfield roads in Mesa until the owner received a cease-and-desist letter from the owners of Bellagio in Las Vegas last summer.
"They gave us nine months to change the name, the whole name, so we decided we have to go that route," said Putrus.
ABC15 found several similar cases targeting businesses across the country. The controversy in Mesa started with a "B" designed by the owner's niece.
In a statement, Director of Corporate Media Relations for MGM Resorts International Brian Ahern said, “It came to our attention last year that this restaurant was using a logo graphic that closely resembled the logo used by our resort. While we are obligated to protect our intellectual property, we work to be as accommodating as possible when coming to a reasonable agreement.”
"We were really confused but you know, we do what we have to do so we changed the name," said Putrus.
The owner poured more than $100,000 into legal fees and a remodel to match the new name. He has until the end of August to finalize the transition but says he is still paying thousands of dollars every month because the web is taking a lot more time to update. Still, this family business has no plans to fold.
"Same ownership, same management, same great food," said Putrus. "We're going to be here for a while."
This is not the restaurant's first go around with a name change. They started as Papa Jay's back in the 1970s but changed their name to Bellagio once Papa John's grew in popularity.
That change was simply to avoid confusion.