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Thief cleans out garden

For four months, Jimmy Tsipliareles, owner of Jimmy’s Pizzas and Subs in Chuckatuck, diligently tended to his vegetable garden behind the restaurant.

But when he walked out to harvest his first bunch of tomatoes for salads recently, they were gone.

“There were only three little green tomatoes left,” Jimmy said. “There had been at least a dozen on each plant. They were huge,” he said cupping his hand to show the size of the beefsteak tomatoes he had grown.

“He takes a lot of pride in his garden,” his wife Nikki said. “He went out on Thursday to look over it and came back in saying first thing tomorrow, he was going to pick the first tomatoes. They were gorgeous — big, palm-sized, red tomatoes. But when he came in on Friday, everything was gone.”

Born in Greece, and having moved to the United States when he was 9, Jimmy began making pizzas on Broadway in New York City when he was 13. He and his wife opened their Chuckatuck restaurant in November.

All the meals at Jimmy’s are homemade, including many of the ingredients, and the Tsipliareles were trying to grow many of their ingredients, as well.

“It helps keep our cost down, and our customers love it,” Nikki said.

The 80-foot long vegetable garden included basil, parsley, eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelons to be used in dishes including the Tzatziki sauce, Mediterranean veggie wrap, marinara sauce, butter spread, eggplant parmesan and Greek pasta salads.

“There were multiple uses for so many of the vegetables,” Nikki said. “The only thing they left were a few small eggplants and the watermelons, because they were hidden by the vines.”

Jimmy planted the garden in April with the help of a customer who came and plowed the land for him.

“Jimmy just turned 58, and he put a lot of sweat and back work into the garden,” Nikki said. “Every day, he was out there watering, weeding, hoeing and cultivating it. I’d have to bring a second pair of clothes to work with me every day, because he’d just be drenched. It’s a nice payoff, but it’s a lot of work.”

In this case, there was little payoff for the Tsipliareles.

“Jimmy was so excited to go pick those pretty, ripe tomatoes,” Nikki said. “He’d waited all this time and just when he went to go get them, they were all gone. It was picked clean. He came back in looking like that droopy dog from the cartoon.”

They estimate it will cost them $200 to replace the vegetables.

“It’s amazing, though,” Nikki said. “We had our post lady go on vacation and brought over two whole baskets of tomatoes, because she said they’d go bad. I just wish if someone was hungry they’d have just come to the door. I have no problem with that. It’s just wrong with so many of us working to just get by. It’s a sad thing.”