I’m writing this article to clarify my/our position on the recent development of the outbreaks of Corona virus throughout the world, especially, unfortunately, in my homeland of Italy.
The situation is extremely serious, the contagiousness and viciousness of this specific pathogen is alarming virologists and experts in the whole scientific community, so I’m not here to say: well, not too bad, it seriously affects only older people.
First off this is not the truth and second, even if it was, is it enough of a reason to overlook the seriousness of this new pandemic? I don’t think so, I really don’t see old people like numbers or lower creatures, I see them as the grandmas and grandpas that come to SOCIALE with their grandkids while their parents are out on a date, I see them as the veterans that defended my freedoms in all kind of wars, I see them as the most important memory and conscience of our society, so please, stop saying this virus is dangerous only on older patients, like, well, if they die is not that big of a deal. This approach just sucks, it’s offensive and flat out disgusting.
So what’s up with this corona virus, the market crash following it and our global economy…but above all what’s up with our local economy, and in more detail, what are the consequences for small businesses like ours in a city like New York?
We think we need to ask ourselves, and try to respond to these questions for many reasons: for example for my and my wife and our future family foreseeable future; for our investors who are fairly asking our point of view about it; for our customers wondering if we are going to keep fighting for opening.
I’d like to start this analysis with a little example from the real life of “Il Gattopardo” the iconic restaurant on 54th and 5th avenue where I and Megh met in 2012.
Il Gattopardo first day of business was September 11th 2001.
After millions and millions of dollars raised from private investors, an extenuating renovation and construction period, an exhausting negotiation with Manolo Blahnik (who owns the building) the glorious establishment was finally ready to open.
And the biggest tragedy of American History hit with its own unique violence, unexpected, stubbing the heart of our incredible City and the whole free world.
Gianfranco and Paula, the tireless owners of this glorious establishment told us many times stories about their first month in business.
The dining room was empty, the MoMa museum right across the street was empty, there were no tourists no humans strolling the streets of New York City. They told us how humbling that experience has been for them, how humiliating was to stand on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant and beg the few passing by to enter and try their fantastic food.
Then little by little, New York City, and its indomitable inhabitants healed. Il Gattopardo is now the flagship of three very successful establishments plus a huge catering business.
Both I and Meghan were there working during Sandy, the day after the hurricane hit, Gianfranco called me and asked…or well told me quietly not asking “are you coming to work today right ? !”…I didn’t know what to say, but I still remember the first thing I thought was his stories about 9/11 and how in our business you just never give up. I took a cab, it costed me more than 100 bucks that he reimbursed and for the following two weeks I went to work on a ferry.
When you are in the restaurants business in this city your skin is pretty thick, real thick. The restaurant kept its activities, if suppliers couldn’t come we cooked whatever they were delivering to us and we printed new menus everyday, but we overcome this event as well.
Before then, the 2008 crisis hit us. The worst market collapse since 1929… I was in the East Village working as a waiter at Gnocco right across the Tompkins Square Park (restaurant is still there healthier than ever).
During that event we were again, punched in the face, surrounded by fear and panic that the world as we know it would end by the end of the week. And again, we survived and eventually thrived.
This current crisis, is another event that will just make our skin ticker and make us more resilient. The restaurant business is not a short term kind of business or investment, it’s on the contrary a long term, life long kind of commitment. Whatever happens in the economy or the world, whatever the headline and the news of the week or the month is, it will be absorbed by time and as long as the world will keep existing we will be there serving our clients, 7 days a week.
New Yorkers are unique kind of humans, they exorcise whatever dramatic happens to our world in their own way, they fight the bad to achieve the good, they stay tight, they respond with an unmatched energy of power and love to whatever happens to them and their great City.
And they love to eat out.
New Yorkers didn’t give up their habits to enjoy a meal at their favorite restaurants when times were much harder than today, and they won’t renounce to this pleasure in the future.
In conclusion, this pandemic is nothing but to be taken extremely seriously, but I’m very confident it won’t jeopardize in a dramatic fashion the future of neither my life nor my wonderful upcoming business.
Thanks for reading.