Covidesign Spotlight: Restaurant Shows Resilience

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Brooklyn Artist and Designer Ilana Greenberg Is Catalyst For Campaign 

Like so many New York City restaurants, the COVID-19 health crisis had forced Barbalu temporarily shutdown and furlough its employees. The family-owned restaurant is located in the heart of the city near the South Street Seaport. Owners Stefano Barbagallo and Adriana Luque, are no strangers to overcoming adversity. Their restaurant was completely destroyed during Hurricane Sandy but they rebuilt after the storm and were just getting back on their feet before the pandemic hit.

Ilana Greenberg, a close friend of the Barbalu owners, a well-known artist and designer based in Brooklyn –  and Creative Director at GDUSA – spoke to her friend Adriana and came up with a way that Barbalu could remain open and food could be provided to the heroes in our hospitals who are battling this health crisis on the front lines. The project started small with mutual friends – many from the P.S. 261 school community where the children of Ilana and Adriana attended years ago – writing checks or sending Venmo payments. Soon, Barbalu was able to bring back their long-time chef Pino and were using their Barbalu kitchen to make and deliver hundreds of meals a day to hospital workers. The deliveries started first going to Maimonides Medical Center where Jennifer Ballard and Dr. Miki Fagan (mutual friends of Ilana and Adriana) continue to working tirelessly to help patients. Within a week of starting this grass-roots campaign, Barbalu had delivered 400 individually wrapped meals to Maimonides. A nurse from NYU Langone then reached out with a request for meals so the restaurant began delivering there as well. New requests have come in from Mount Sinai Hospital as well, and Barbalu will start providing meals to Mt. Sinai this week.

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The funding of the project recently shifted to the GoFundMe crowdfunding platform where over $5000 dollars of donations have come in the past 3 days alone. The donations have come in from across the country as news of the project has been shared by friends, family and work colleagues.

This project shows how friends, neighbors and a small family-owned restaurant, can come together to support our critically important medical workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Barbalu has received notes and other expressions of gratitude from nurses and other hospital workers. Often hospital staff simply don’t have a moment to eat and having these bags of delicious food has brightened there spirits and helped them sustain themselves during long and difficult shifts. One ER doctor at Maimonides wrote: “You made the environmental workers, radio techs, secretaries, nurses and doctors smile.” When Barbalu told a COVID ICU nurse at NYU Langone that they could bring her meals, the nurse responded, “You don’t know how happy this will make us.”

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