‘We Just Pull Up To The Emergency Room And Drop Off Food’: Why Harry’s Italian Decided To Stay Open

When New York City shut down, brothers Frank and Salvatore Buglione (pictured, left to right) decided with their co-owners at the restaurant group HPH NYC to keep both their Harry’s Italian locations open. “You always hate to see any restaurant go completely dark,” HPH partner Paul Lamas told the Downtown Alliance. “We wanted to try and keep some of our key employees, key staff working. Everybody wanted to work. We really wanted to do something to help the community.” 

Beyond their neighborhood regulars, HPH and the Bugliones identified plenty of other mouths to feed in Manhattan. They tapped a number of their food purveyors and liquor vendors to see who’d be willing to chip in — the restaurant would match any donation — to serve first responders (e.g. NYPD’s 1st Precinct, Engine 4 and Ladder 15 on South Street, NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital). “We’re not here looking to make money or make this any publicity stunt,” Salvatore told the Alliance. “We do our best work when people are not looking. We just keep dropping off food — we don’t even ask any questions. We just pull up to the emergency room and drop off food. 

I always feel we do the easy part,” Salvatore added. “Okay, we’re dropping off some food. It’s more about what these hospital workers are going through. They’re dealing with patients every day.”

The Bugliones work 18- and 19-hour days to do what they’re doing. At around 7 or 8 each morning, they turn on the ovens and wait for the orders to come in. Before they know it, Salvatore said, “we turn around and it’s 11 o’clock at night.” They’re not even tired, he said. “It’s unbelievable: You don’t realize 15 hours went by and you’re still strong.”

Obviously money’s very tight right now,” Lamas explained, “and we’re doing what we can with the limited dollars that we have.” Still, part of their work is staying in touch with employees who are going through tough times. “We try to send them food,” Salvatore said. “We try to do the best we can to keep it all together.”

Like most businesses functioning right now, a big part of keeping things together is making sure you’re staying amply apart — maintaining the six-foot social distancing rule, wiping down the restaurant nightly, donning masks and gloves. “That’s just the way the world’s changed now,” Lamas said. “I mean, we’ve always had clean restaurants, but now we go the extra yard.”