Leonardo Giordano spoke to friends about the state of business in the pandemic Thursday evening in a parking lot in Annadale. Some customers come to him at his Mona Lisa Pizzeria looking for money to get by and they’re paying for their food with change.
“With change! Now people can’t even buy a meal,” he lamented. Giordano and about 200 supporters of Joe Caldarera, a Republican challenging Nicole Malliotakis in a run for Congress, stood in the once-vibrant parking lot Thursday evening. Stores like “Shades of Color” hair salon in the town have been closed for about two months with over a dozen restaurants and the local liquor store operating on a curbside pickup/delivery-only business model.
“We just want to get back to work and make our beautiful clients beautiful again,” said Christina Sears, a worker in “Shades of Color.” She and colleagues stood with signs protesting the continued New York City business shutdown while a DJ played “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
Angelina Malerba of Angelina’s Ristorante and Angelina’s Kitchen fame, stepped into the center of the crowd. She and her family’s pair of restaurants are in irons right now. The fine dining Tottenville location has been closed since mid-March. The Mall venture, a “kitchen” with its family-style, bistro format, has loyal patrons continuing to support the business with socially distanced tailgate parties and curbside food and drink pickup. The model has attracted the attention of police who remind the proprietors of steep fines and potential loss of the liquor license for such gatherings with alcohol.
The rally, organized by Phil DeMeo and Joe Emmanuele, started as a platform for Caldarera. It continued for about an hour as a demonstration of public outrage over Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo’s reluctance to help what the candidate called “the backbone of our economy, the lifeline of our community,” the borough’s small businesses. Steve Margarella of Margarella Construction, and Anthony Fazzia, son of Jo Fazz Transportation school bus company of Brooklyn, were among the rally speakers.
“We can go to Home Depot, a department store… but my restaurant and real estate friends have to stay closed,” said Calderera.
“It’s crazy,” said Malerba. She cannot understand why New York won’t just give the go-ahead to start up again.
Malerba said that to take advantage of the spring and summer season, the kitchens had to get fired up once again. And that alone would take some time.
“We gotta buy our food. We gotta bring our people back. It’s been three months now,” she said.
“Our small businesses have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic and we cannot let the cure continue the devastation,” Caldarera said. “We hope that our elected officials heard them loud and clear so we can get back to work. I am not interested in having the back of my government, I’m only interested in having the backs of my people.”
Caldarera expressed outrage on the part of restaurant owners with whom he has spoken. When they do open, he said, the law will mandate 50 percent capacity in dining rooms. “They’ve got to open at 80 percent capacity to be profitable,” he told the Advance.
“They’ll open safely and maintain a safe environment for their loyal patrons. They don’t need the government to tell them what they have to do to keep their customers safe. They know how to do that,” Caldarera concluded.