STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Muddling through the pandemic, certain words have been introduced to our lexicon that just don’t seem to go away. Ironic phrases have become new additions to our vocabulary, particularly to those of us who work in or write about the food service industry.
Ask Sal Finochiarro of Palermo Pizzeria and he’ll give you his top ten words that come to mind these days — Mask. Loan. Tent. Summons. Capacity. Task force. Curbside. Sanitizer. Contact-free. Communism.
Let me pick up here at the contact-free expression. Visually it’s meant to express that bare fingers and hands have not touched one’s food. We know that robots don’t make our restaurant meals (yet) but somewhere along the line a person had to make “contact” with the item. Just sayin’.
But anyway, here are ones that give pause in 2020.
Cuomo Chips — Can sometimes be expressed as “Cuomo Fries” or prefaced with a profanity but it’s basically a menu item created by Harvey’s Restaurant & Bar in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. In July, the owner of the restaurant posted a photo to social media that showed it attached to a $1 charge on a receipt. It came about in response to an order by the governor that requires food to be ordered with a first round of drinks.
Usage: “Hey, waiter, do those Cuomo Chips come with a side order of Buffalo wings?”
IROAR — Best described as an angry noun, the acronym represents a group of now about 200 restaurants, mainly in Brooklyn and Staten Island, in the Independent Restaurant Owners Association Rescue. You roar. We roar. He, she or it roars. No — IROAR, says the brainchild of the group’s name, Alison Marchese from Max’s Esca in Dongan Hills.
Usage: I went to a restaurant rally in front of the Richmond County Courthouse and Rob DeLuca roared on behalf of IROAR.
And, by the way, there is a court date set for the restaurant’s lawsuit which is Oct. 30.
Off-premises consumption — Who would think this could be a thing in the food industry in New York City? Cocktails are shaken up in the restaurant and shipped to someone’s doorstep for enjoyment within home confines. I admit being surprised that liquor stores didn’t protest that mandate as it seems to water down the market for retail purchases from, say, the neighborhood wine shop. But anyway, it could be a useful tool for restaurants who have access to unusual wines by the case or who look to move product like beer. The latter can be sold by the growler, a jug-like vessel in which the brew can be legally transported.
Usage: Mike and Lina walked up to Forest Avenue to buy some mixed drinks in disposable cups for off-premises consumption.
Pivot — This best expresses the shifting that restaurant owners have had to do in the pandemic to survive. Daddino’s Catering Hall of Seaview worked up barbecue packages for socially distanced, outdoor events around the region, bringing the chef and staff into the home. They’d work out of the guest’s garage or at a great distance from the family. Owner and executive chef Lou Marfoglio also delivered themed meals from various borough chefs, a treat for those who missed having a professional cook their food.
Pivot is what Massimo Felici at VINUM and Reggiano’s of Tottenville did early on the pandemic when he turned his restaurant into a supply house for home cooks so they didn’t have to trek to a germ-y supermarket. And it’s what West Cork Union Hall did in West Brighton to survive: the pub pivoted and became a full-service restaurant.
Usage: Duffy’s had to pivot when dining outdoors was legal and outfitted their parking lot. Now, the restaurant has more than doubled its volume.
Fist bump — What you do as a restaurant owner when you see a patron for the first time in awhile, the new norm for “huggy” types. At least it alleviates a little of the awkwardness of someone in the hospitality business who is used to shaking hands and kissing guests as they come and go.
Usage: Vittorio used to kiss me on both cheeks. Now I’m lucky to get a fist bump.
Open Restaurants Closed — This ironic arrangement of words is real. In early August the Department of Transportation started the requirement that signs be posted around the restaurant that said, “Closed. Open restaurants. No gathering after 11 p.m.” This message pertained to eateries that signed on for street dining. But it seems the DOT had to pivot to get its point across about the curfew in effect.
Usage: The mayor delivered some good news: formerly closed restaurants can now be part of the Open Restaurants program but must close at midnight and not open until 8 a.m.
Our 11-year old, James, confessed the other day that his least favorite words were “COVID-19” and “pandemic.” He told me he didn’t want to hear them anymore.
Pamela Silvestri is Advance Food Editor. She can be reached at [email protected].