It used to be that the “thank you” came after the meal, but for Barbalu Restaurant, which has been delivering hundreds of free meals to area hospitals, the gratitude comes first. The medical professionals say “thank you” as soon as they receive the care packages.
Jennifer Ballard is a physician's assistant in the Neurosurgery Department at Mainonides Medical Center.
"I can tell you right now, and I’m almost tearing up, that it means so much to us to have people thinking abut us and caring about us because we’re here everyday caring for all these people who are so sick and dying," Ballard told us.
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Chloe Seales-Bailey is also a physician's assistant in the Neurosurgery Department. "A lot of the the time the nurses are here, they work extra shifts, they work overtime. They don’t have a chance to go out and get food. So these being delivered and so delicious makes a world of difference," she said.
For husband and wife restaurant owners Stefano Barbagallo and Adriana Luque, some of this is quite familiar. Their restaurant by the South Street Seaport was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. It took eight months before they could begin to rebuild. They didn't do it alone.
"You just feel lost. And then what happened was people started showing up to help, to help throw things out, to bring food, to bring supplies: gloves and boots and people showed up with gas because we had to use generators,” said Adriana.
Pino Panucci is the chef at Barbalu.
"In this moment, knowing you are helping somebody so important like doctors and nurses makes me really proud," he said in between preparing more meals.
Thanks to donations through a GoFundMe account, they prepare and deliver as many as 100 meals a day to hospitals like Maimonides Medical Center and NYU Langone Medical Center.
The restaurant also has a fundraising page on its website to help its out-of-work staff. If their efforts to feed health care workers gets bigger, they may be able to bring back more workers. everyone here is hopeful, including Stefano.
“From the experience of Sandy, something that gives me hope is we’re able to come back stronger than before. Hopefully this will be the same, not for me but for New York, the country, the world," Stefano said.
For information on how to donate go to their instagram page @barbalunyc.