SARATOGA SPRINGS — A landmark Saratoga Springs restaurant shut down Friday after its executive chef was arrested as a fugitive, but will be “back and better than ever” with a new chef on Thursday.
Management of Siro’s restaurant said Tuesday they had no indication that the man they knew as Bobby Missinelli was in fact Robert S. Barber Jr., and that multiple arrest warrants had been issued for his arrest.
“We vetted him, all of his references were great,” General Manager Kevin Decker said. “We were taken aback by it.”
All of Barber’s documentation as Missinelli checked out, too, Decker said.
New York State Police noted that Barber possessed a Massachusetts driver’s license in the name of Robert S. Missinelli when they arrested him at the restaurant.
Along with the shock of the arrest, Siro’s had a bigger problem: Just after it opened for the season, it had to shut down.
“We’re supposed to be the preeminent restaurant in Saratoga, in racing,” Decker said, so they didn’t want to operate without a leader in the kitchen.
Dave Jackson has stepped in as executive chef. Siro’s will reopen Thursday.
Barber, 45, of Ballston Spa, was charged with second-degree possession of a forged instrument, a felony, and with being a fugitive from justice. In addition to multiple out-of-state arrest warrants, Barber is wanted by the Saugerties Police Department on a charge of possession of a forged instrument.
Barber has an extensive history of interactions with police:
- He’s currently listed in two separate Virginia courts as a fugitive on unrelated felony charges and listed in a third as having not returned to court on a misdemeanor matter.
- The Post Star newspaper reported his arrest in 2017 for allegedly scamming a local bank out of $2,000 and quoted the Glens Falls police as saying there were six warrants for his arrest in Queensbury, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
- Syracuse.com and other media outlets in 2016 published one of the “Warrant Wednesday” features the New York State Police were releasing at that time to publicize their searches for fugitives. Barber was listed as Troop G’s man of the hour, with arrest warrants out of Wilton and Lake Luzerne on bad check charges and active warrants from six other police agencies in the Capital Region.
- The Post Star in 2013 reported his arrest on felony charges of grand larceny and possessing a forged instrument.
Barber was being held in the Saratoga County Jail on Tuesday afternoon.
If nothing else, he apparently is a good chef — Siro’s earned a couple of rave reviews on Facebook from attendees at a soft opening held July 12 in advance of the public opening.
Siro’s is open only when Saratoga Race Course is open, which is 40 days this summer. So it lost 10% of its season by not being able to open on four scheduled days in what was supposed to be a comeback season.
The restaurant at 168 Lincoln Ave., well-known for its wealthy and celebrity customers and post-race live music and nightlife, never opened in 2020, when the pandemic led to fans being barred from the historic horse track.
Siro’s has had a succession of owners in the past decade and is once again under new ownership this year — the father-son team of Peter and Jake Spitalny.
Previous owner Scott Solomon was charged in September 2020 with stealing funds from Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s campaign accounts and was arrested in May 2021 on forgery charges in connection with his attempts to open Siro’s in 2020.
Barber is not charged with doing anything illegal at Siro’s.
Decker said he immediately checked the accounting after he learned why state police came to the restaurant and arrested Barber on Friday. But he found nothing out of place.
“We went through a multitude of records,” Decker said. “He hasn’t done anything here.”
Decker said he knows Jackson, the new executive chef, and is confident of his abilities (and identity).
He said Siro’s will be in top form when it reopens Thursday.
“We’re back and better than ever,” Decker said.