COVID-19 did not shutter Patricia’s of Morris Park. In fact, due to its relationships with local hospitals and customers, the restaurant was busy the past three months.
For nearly 30 years the eatery at 1082 Morris Park Ave., owned by Patricia and Calogero Borgognone, has provided delicious Italian food to the Bronx.
General Manager Joseph Schaentzler, 29, spoke with the Bronx Times about how the restaurant survived COVID-19.
“We were fortunate enough to do that because we have always done delivery and had takeout service,” he said. “It was like a blessing in disguise.”
Their customers stayed loyal during the pandemic, Schaentzler, explained. People constantly ordered food, but moreover, for many years they have had accounts with nearby Montefiore hospitals.
Schaentzler would check in with doctors he knows to see if they needed food and many people from out of state called the store to buy food for hospitals.
He noted that if they did not deliver they would have been a bad spot.
“You have to adapt,” he said. “You have to move along with the times.”
While most of Morris Park was closed the past few months, they were one of the few places open. Mother’s Day and Easter were huge as numerous people had food catered to them.
The bus boys, waiters and servers were let go as no one could sit inside, but the kitchen staff was constantly busy. Some of the guys in the kitchen have worked together for nearly 20 years.
“The kitchen is very tight knit,” he said. “We understood the severs, busboys and bartenders were probably going to have to go on unemployment.”
Two months ago the restaurant received a small business loan, which helped bring some people in the kitchen back and do some renovations in the store.
Typically there are four line cooks, two pizza guys, five people in the prep kitchen and a salad guy. But when COVID-19 hit, he had to reduce those numbers. Schaentzler noted that did not last long.
“By the third week it was so super busy I had to start bringing people back,” he explained.
On June 22, they opened up their outdoor seating and were granted additional space from the city. Allowing the customers to return has been huge, not just for the community, but citywide.
Schaentzler said people come to the eatery from the Bronx, the city and even Westchester.
“As eager as we were to get customers back in to have people have some sense of normalcy, being sanitary and being cautious of people’s health and making them feel comfortable was always a priority,” Schaentzler said.
He even spoke with a restaurant consultant about how to make things safe for the guests. Customers are told to wait on the side if there are no tables ready and so far, they have been busy and everyone has been patient.
“I wanted to create an atmosphere not only for people to come back in and dine, but I wanted them to have a peace of mind when they are doing it,” Schaentzler explained. “It’s really nice to see a ton of loyal customers.”
Schaentzler, who worked in the medical field for five years before coming to the restaurant, understood the seriousness of the virus. His employees all wear masks and are constantly cleaning the store.
He doesn’t want people living in fear, but he also stressed that people need to be cognizant of the situation.
As Phase 3 of reopening is tentatively set for July 6, Patricia’s is debating putting partitions between the tables inside.
Looking forward, Schaentzler told the Bronx Times that operating a restaurant is definitely different than it used to be.
“To open a restaurant when everything was normal was a risk,” he said. “Now try to open a restaurant after this.”