NYC restaurateur delivers hundreds of donated meals to health care workers during coronavirus

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In New York City, in the middle of a statewide pause on daily life, the owner of a popular Italian restaurant has taken it upon himself to collect donations to provide meals to frontline health care workers at the city’s hospitals.

Luca Di Pietro, the owner of the popular Italian eatery Tarallucci e Vino, had the idea when talking with a friend from Toronto about the coming coronavirus crisis and its impact on the restaurant industry.

Health-care workers at NYU Langone Medical Center stand with donated meals from Tarallucci e Vino.

Health-care workers at NYU Langone Medical Center stand with donated meals from Tarallucci e Vino.

Now, he’s launched a website where patrons can donate to provide authentic Italian meals to health care workers.

“My hope in this craziness we live in is that we get enough hospitals that we can feed in these rough times. And eventually I could get more restaurants to help out.”

— Luca Di Pietro, owner of Tarallucci e Vino. 

Since last Thursday, Di Pietro said he’s donated 460 meals across a number of NYC hospitals. He said he’s hoping to provide 300 to 400 donated meals per day going forward.

“My hope in this craziness we live in is that we get enough hospitals that we can feed in these rough times,” Di Pietro said, “and eventually I could get more restaurants to help out.”

Luca Di Pietro, owner of Tarallucci e Vino, stands with two health-care workers and a stack of donated meals from his restaurant. (Photo courtesy Luca Di Pietro)

Luca Di Pietro, owner of Tarallucci e Vino, stands with two health-care workers and a stack of donated meals from his restaurant. (Photo courtesy Luca Di Pietro)

Di Pietro enlisted the help of his daughter and her classmate to build a website to facilitate the deliveries and help expand the network of restaurants involved. Both college seniors were home after their university, like so many across the country, ended in-person classes and asked students to leave.

The website, Feed the Frontlines, allows people to donate meals beginning at $25. The website states that it raised more than $49,000 of its $140,000 goal.

By opening one of his kitchens for deliveries, both donated and personal, he’s managed to keep most of the staff at one of his restaurants working. Still, he, like so many other restaurateurs, has had to lay off some employees.

“If we don’t get relief immediately, people will have loans out, some sort of cash advance deal, with banks, with merchants, they’re going to have to default,” Di Pietro said. “… Without any kind of production, our landscape is bound to completely change.”

CORONAVIRUS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The National Restaurant Association estimates that the industry employs more than 15 million people across the United States, and the organization said nearly half of those people could lose their jobs if the projected $225 billion decline in revenue over the next three months comes to fruition.

“This is something else that I thought would be helpful, not just for myself, but maybe to make everybody feel a little better." 

— Luca Di Pietro, owner of Tarallucci e Vino

The vast majority of states, including New York, have mandated that restaurants close their dining rooms and only offer delivery or carry out to try and stop the spread of coronavirus.

Di Pietro said that by his estimation those numbers don’t seem unrealistic. He’s had to lay off the majjority of his workforce, but he’s hopeful that’ll change as his donation program grows.

“My hope is again, to be as busy as I can so I can bring back everybody,” he said. “I have 90 percent of my workforce unemployed as of [March 16].”

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So far, at least, it seems Di Pietro has been growing toward that goal while providing a bit of warmth and sustenance to the heroes this moment demands: frontline health care workers.

“This is something else that I thought would be helpful, not just for myself, but maybe to make everybody feel a little better,” Di Pietro said.

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