North End restaurateur plans to run for Boston mayor amid outdoor dining clash with Michelle Wu

Jorge Mendoza-Iturralde, a North End restaurateur clashing with Boston City Hall over outdoor dining restrictions, said he plans to run for mayor.

While at least two others are said to be contemplating a run, Mendoza-Iturralde, a 56-year-old Argentinian immigrant who lives and works in the North End, is the first candidate to declare his intention to challenge Mayor Michelle Wu, who has yet to officially announce plans to seek a second term. Wu has said it is “very likely,” she runs again. The election is in 2025.

“My family and I came to the United States in 1984; I’m an adopted son of the city of Boston and the United States and I am appalled at what’s happening to our city,” Mendoza-Iturralde told the Herald Tuesday. “The attack that (Mayor Wu has) placed on the North End is not the only trouble she has with neighborhoods.

“I think that Boston deserves better. I’m sure that others will step up to the challenge, but I am confident that I can have an argument with her about what Boston needs and what will make Boston the city it’s always been — not the city it is becoming under her rule,” he said.

Mendoza-Iturralde, owner of Vinoteca di Monica, cited similar frustrations with Mayor Wu when he launched a last-minute write-in campaign for a spring 2022 special election aimed at filling a then-open City Council seat that includes the North End as part of the district and was ultimately won by Gabriela Coletta Zapata.

At the time, the city had implemented a $7,500 fee for outdoor dining in the North End while leaving the option free for other neighborhoods, which sparked the restaurateurs’ battle with the city and led to them filing a lawsuit that accused the mayor of showing “anti-Italian discrimination.” The on-street dining option was banned there in 2023, and again this year.

Mendoza-Iturralde described Wu as an “outsider” who is trying to replicate Chicago-style “mob” politics in Boston, saying she sees her mayoral post as a “stepping-stone.”

He was included on the mayor’s list of critics sent to the Police Department along with his brother and fellow North End restaurant owner Patrick Mendoza, who was arrested and charged with shooting a man outside Modern Bakery last summer.

While Boston has always been a Democrat city, Mendoza-Iturralde said it has traditionally been a working class one where previous mayors were able to work with neighborhoods and residents for the “greater good” — something he doesn’t see Mayor Wu as doing.

“It seems she has problems everywhere and she loves to spend our money,” Mendoza-Iturralde said. “If I do get elected to be the mayor of the city of Boston, I will run a fiscally responsible city where the benefits of the taxpayer dollar are not for trips to Italy or for ‘Electeds of Color’ parties.”

Mendoza-Iturralde, a registered Independent voter, is the first candidate to announce a mayoral run as part of what could become a politically diverse pool of challengers seeking to capitalize on criticism around some of Wu’s recent decisions.

The two other rumored candidates, Josh Kraft, son of the billionaire New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and City Councilor Ed Flynn differ in their political views.

Kraft, head of his family’s philanthropic arm, is a progressive Democrat like Wu who could take advantage of the pushback the mayor has received for some of her proposals in communities of color — particularly her failed attempt to move the O’Bryant School to West Roxbury and her plan to renovate White Stadium to house a professional women’s soccer team, which led to a lawsuit by neighbors.

Flynn, the son of former Mayor Ray Flynn and the City Council president last term, is a moderate Democrat who has criticized the mayor’s controversial plan to raise commercial tax rates amid economic challenges facing the business sector. He also opposed her decision to exclude certain schoolchildren from her free museum pilot initiative.

Neither has confirmed rumors that they are running for mayor, nor denied in the case of the 57-year-old Kraft.

“I’m looking at a lot of things,” Kraft said in a Tuesday statement to the Herald. “I have nothing to report right now.”

While Flynn, a 55-year-old U.S. Navy veteran who served in Operation Enduring Freedom, said earlier this month that he is not planning a run for mayor, a person familiar with his plans told the Herald Tuesday that he may be considering it, but that it’s too early for him to decide whether he will run.

Flynn doesn’t want to come across as undecided about his plans, but thinks that he needs to keep all of his options open, the source said.

Another potential indicator: Flynn has nearly $700,000 in his campaign war chest, compared to other city councilors who don’t have funds anywhere near six figures, according to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

The mayor’s election showings indicate she will be tough to beat in a citywide race. Wu, a former City Council president, easily won her bid for mayor in 2021 and saw her entire slate of endorsed council candidates win their respective elections last fall.

Wu, 39, the first woman and person of color to be elected mayor, has not yet announced a bid for a second term, though she has said it is “very likely” she will run and has roughly $1.4 million in her campaign coffers. While aware of a potential challenger, she is not focused on the race just yet, she said

“I have a lot on my plate right now, in terms of a lot of work that we are doing every day for the residents of Boston,” Wu told reporters last week. “I’m sure there will be plenty of time for campaigning and politics later on, but we have a lot in front of us.”

City Councilor Ed Flynn
City Councilor Ed Flynn (Matt Stone/Boston Herald, File)
Josh Kraft, seen here with his father, Robert Kraft, said, “I have nothing to report right now,” when asked if he was planning a run for mayor. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/Boston Herald, File)


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