On Tuesday, June 23, Isabella Di Pietro was inside her family’s restaurant, Taralluci E Vino, on the Upper West Side, watching people sit outside and enjoy the first days of outdoor dining in New York as the city entered Phase Two of reopening. Back in March, when Mayor Bill de Blasio issued the order for all restaurants to close for indoor dining, Di Pietro’s father had to close four out of five locations of his restaurant, Tarallucci e Vino, and had to let go of 95 of 102 employees.
“You can imagine being in this business for such a long time and, you know, these are people who’ve been working with my father for oftentimes over 10 years, some of them since the very beginning,” Di Pietro said. “Not knowing when you’d be able to rehire people again, that was awful.”
But on March 21, Di Pietro and her family had a temporary solution to help the restaurant stay afloat and eventually help other restaurants bring their employees to work for a good cause: Feed the Frontlines NYC. A donation-based organization, Feed the Frontlines NYC organizes restaurants to prepare quality meals to be delivered to frontline heath care workers at local hospitals in New York.
As well as being able to rehire restaurant workers, Di Pietro said the best part was “going out and handing over hot food to people who are in the hospitals who had up until that point, I think been feeling really forgotten.”
Taking a Hit
This has continued for months, and Di Pietro said her whole family has been working without a day off to get new restaurants involved, organize where the need is in their area, and respond to outreach from areas that needed it the most.
In the spirit of bringing causes together, this past week they supported another industry that has taken a hit in the pandemic: comedy. Like many other live performances, comedy shows were jettisoned when New York shut down, leaving comedians out of work. On Thursday, Feed the Frontlines NYC hosted a virtual comedy show, “A Night of Laughs,” featuring six comedians: Ray Ellin, Tom Cotter, Ophira Eisenberg, Brian Scott McFadden, Chuck Nice, and Tony V. The $25 tickets and any additional donations compensated the comedians for their work as well as provided 250 more meals for communities in need.
“I think there’s a sense that everyone, I think, can use some humor right now,” Di Pietro said.
Humor is what they delivered at the Zoom comedy show, featuring many of the comedians’ quarantine anecdotes and virtual crowd-work with audience members around the country. Of the $7,500 goal, so far $5,753 has been raised through tickets and donations.
As the need for meals slowly moves from frontline workers at hospitals to other vulnerable communities, DiPietro said the organization will continue to deliver meals as the city, and hopefully restaurants, reopen.
“It just depends on what the greatest needs are at any given moment. We try to adjust based on that,” Di Pietro said. “It’s about honoring the commitments that we’ve made to partners that we worked with far, but also continually understanding how needs are shifting.”
The full video of “A Night of Laughs” can be viewed on the Feed the Frontlines NYC website.