A restaurant owner takes inventory of a milestone in the business that survived COVID. Now he gives back to his patrons.

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STATEN ISLAND, NY — Reflecting on the ups and downs of his years in business, Rob DeLuca says he’s counting his blessings. Now, with two venues on the move – Tottenville and the new restaurants in West Brighton – he wants to relax and celebrate those moments.

“I feel like five years went by quickly, but it was a long five years,” DeLuca said, adding a chuckle.

He explained, “It’s been a bit more important for so many years, especially with what restaurants have just been through with COVID – and with what our customers are going through with the state of the economy.”

Colossal shrimp in a tangy tomato broth with roasted cherry peppers and broccoli rabe (courtesy Rob DeLuca)

So DeLuca allows the current state of affairs – inflated gas and food prices compared to summers past – as inspiration to give back to customers through Sunday, August 7.

“We’re going to be running a ton of different promotions daily until Tottenville’s anniversary date – July 27,” he said.

Specifically at the Amboy Road Restaurant, this means that on Monday nights kids eat free. On Tuesdays, “Ten Dollar Tuesdays” guarantee $10 apps from a select menu of 12 to 14 options. “Wine Down Wednesdays” is offering half price glasses of wine and 33% off the bottle list.

DeLuca

Langostino appetizer on the regular menu (Courtesy of Rob DeLuca)

An already successful “Lobsterfest” on Thursdays will continue with an appetizer followed by a 1 1/4 pound lobster dinner for $39.95.

On Fridays and Saturdays, a “Patio Party” Happy Hour will take place in the garden and the outdoor bar area from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. And on Sunday, DeLuca’s will present a free order of its signature dish, Mamma’s Meatballs, to each table.

DeLuca

Mamma’s Meatballs (Courtesy Rob DeLuca)

A RAVAGED RESTORATION INDUSTRY

Like articles from SILIVE.com/Staten Island Advance and Yelp statistics documented during the pandemic circa June 2020, the restaurant industry has been ravaged during the pandemic. While Yelp at the time, for example, reported a permanent closure rate of 53% nationwide, DeLuca and several food industry colleagues in the borough formed IROAR – the association of independent catering.

The effort was massive and resulted in lawsuits and public appearances. As the group’s eventual de facto leader, De Luca has been making the rounds on national news and New York radio stations to rally against the state’s continued ban on indoor dining until the end of the week. Summer 2020. He and his friend Max Calicchio of Max’s Esca have become spokespersons for the rigid regulations and vaccination card checks that put restaurants in the crosshairs of politicians. DeLuca said time away from business was time well spent.

“We felt the need to fight for people who couldn’t do it themselves,” he said.

NYC Vaccine Rally

In 2020: Rob Deluca, owner of Italian restaurant Deluca, speaks at the IROAR rally at St. George’s Courthouse against vaccination mandates in New York. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)

DeLuca noted in these dark times, “Even though we still faced a ton of challenges — inspectors coming in to check masks and temperature logs and all that … those were things that they made us do, that they never checked. I have a 365 day stack with temperature logs that have never been verified.

He continued: “I guess it was the hardest time for [DeLuca’s] — confinements. It was a very stressful time for me. We were going through something the people of this world had never seen before and we had to make do. Our clientele supported us and as they say the night is darkest just before dawn…and dawn came when we reopened. The happiest times have all come together in a way in 2020.”

DeLuca

The outdoor dining area has been expanded throughout the pandemic. (Courtesy of Rob DeLuca)

Guests came back in force for parties, baptisms, showers and dinners in the expanded outdoor garden section. SILIVE.com/Advance’s “Best Al Fresco” competition won him first prize. With the roller coaster of business and the recovery from the pandemic, his appreciation for the hospitality industry has grown.

DeLuca concluded, “Every day I wake up and make people happy. You have to somehow bob and smash your way through all the challenges thrown at you. But if you do it with a positive attitude in this life, you will come out a winner. You just can’t give up.

Pamela Silvestri is editor-in-chief of Advance Food. She can be reached at silvestri@siadvance.com.

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