THE HILL – In the good old days, like two months ago, Favazza’s on the Hill served 600 people on a Saturday night.
That ended for Favazza’s and every other Italian restaurant in the Hill neighborhood when the city limited restaurants to takeout and delivery during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Now, the eatery has 20 to 30 takeout and delivery orders on a busy night.
“We are running at about 12 percent of our usual business,” said John Favazza, who owns the restaurant with his brother Tony. “We’re doing OK for now.”
Favazza’s was known for banquets and parties, but lost them all, John Favazza said. Just six to eight people are working in a single shift of 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
It’s a tale told throughout the Hill, which is known for its many places for fine dining.
“Not one person that I speak to on a daily basis is not struggling,” said Andrea Ervin, owner of Mama’s on the Hill.
Ervin describes her business volume as terrible. She said her takeout and delivery business was less than an eighth of what she had before COVID-19 ended the normal kind of restaurant business.
Speaking grimly, Ervin said the restaurant missed major opportunities such as Easter and graduation.
Nonetheless, restaurants throughout the Hill are surviving, if barely.
Lynn Marie Alexander, the director of the Hill Neighborhood Center, said that 23 of the 26 restaurants in the neighborhood were open. Those that aren’t open for now are Adriana’s on the Hill, Charlie Gito’s and Oliva on the Hill.
“They’re doing the best they can,” Alexander said.
For a month after the order to shut down restaurants to dining, Rigazzi’s was closed. It briefly had curbside service, but ended it. Then on Friday, it offered that service again.
“We were up and running. We’ve been busy, busy,” said Joan Aiazzi, the restaurant’s owner. On the first day, fish and mac and cheese was a popular meal choice.
Among the other Hill neighborhood restaurants that are staying open is Guido’s Pizzeria and Tapas. The restaurant offers curbside and delivery.
“I’m doing with a fourth of the business, but I’m happy that some money’s coming in,” said Miquel Carretero at Guido’s.
Those customers who are buying are partial to pizza and pasta specials, Carretero said.
“You have a lot of great restaurants closed,” Carretero said.
Zia’s on the Hill also is getting along with curbside delivery.
“Considering our current situation, we’re managing,” said Zia’s general manager, Cory Chiodini. Business has dropped off by about 80 percent, Chiodini said.
Zia’s didn’t get a small business loan it was depending on, Chiodini said.
Because of the drop in business, it’s easier for Zia’s employees to maintain social distancing. Right now, four employees are working per shift at the restaurant.
The situation is dark, but John Favazza of Favazza’s on the Hill sees a bright side. Customers have paid to send the restaurant’s meals to front-line medical, fire and police staff. On breaks from ministering to those suffering from COVID-19, they can feast on such meals as Sicilian chicken, chicken Parmigiano, spaghetti and meatballs and Sicilian salmon and pasta.
The same thing happened during the Ferguson disturbances in 2014, Alexander said. Restaurants took meals to police, she said. In the toughest of times, people reached out.
And these days, for some things, there’s no better medicine than an Italian feast from the Hill.