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HOMETOWN HELPERS: NYC pizzeria feeding Mt. Sinai staff battling coronavirus with a customer donor program

HOMETOWN HELPERS: NYC pizzeria feeding Mt. Sinai staff battling coronavirus with a customer donor program
(L to R) Besjan Bajarami, Ardian Oroshi, John Nikolla and Angel Bolanos at Famous Famiglia Pizzeria on E. 97th St. and Madison Ave. in Manhattan. The pizzeria is donating free pies to workers at Mount Sinai Hospital.
(L to R) Besjan Bajarami, Ardian Oroshi, John Nikolla and Angel Bolanos at Famous Famiglia Pizzeria on E. 97th St. and Madison Ave. in Manhattan. The pizzeria is donating free pies to workers at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Mount Sinai Hospital may be running low on masks and gowns, but it has plenty of PPE — Personal Pizzas to Eat.
Famous Famiglia Pizza, just one block from the Madison Ave. hospital, is cooking up a program to supply the staff on the front lines of the coronavirus fight with the fuel to keep saving lives.

Famous Famiglia Pizzeria on E. 97th St. and Madison Ave. in Manhattan.
Famous Famiglia Pizzeria on E. 97th St. and Madison Ave. in Manhattan.(Gardiner Anderson/for New York Daily News)
“Let’s help our HOSPITAL” reads a sign in the pizza shop’s window. “Donate 1 pie and Famiglia will add 1.”
Pizza maker Ardian Orshi, 25, said the donations have been piling up higher than the mozzarella.

“Today I received a call from North Carolina," Orshi said. “They ordered 10 pies. Yesterday from Washington D.C. they ordered 12 pies.”
Many of the donations come from friends and loved ones of the overworked hospital staff.
“They usually leave notes for people, so basically we write a note to the staff with a message from their friend: ’Thanks for your hard work being on the front line,' ‘Be safe,’ ‘We are here to support you,’ everything,” Orshi said.

"Let's help our HOSPITAL" reads a sign in Famous Famiglia Pizzeria's window. "Donate 1 pie and Famiglia will add 1."
"Let's help our HOSPITAL" reads a sign in Famous Famiglia Pizzeria's window. "Donate 1 pie and Famiglia will add 1."(Gardiner Anderson/for New York Daily News)
Manager John Nikolla, 40, decided to start the donations and turn it into a cause.
“We’ve always done a lot of business from Mt. Sinai,” Nikolla said. “We’ve always tried to help them even for other events.”
Nikolla, who lives in White Plains, has been at the shop for eight years, and his family has owned it for 30. He estimates that up to 500 pies have been delivered to the hospital in the past two weeks between the shop’s generosity and customer matches.
“I have a standing order for them," he said. "We send 10 pies around 12:30 (p.m.) to the Emergency Room, we send 10 pies at night.”
Whatever customers donate during the day gets added to the deliveries.
“The hospital needs fuel to run on,” Nikolla said, adding that he would soon extend the program to nearby Metropolitan Hospital. “I’m not doing it for the thank yous. You’re just supposed to do it.”

Hospital staff at Mount Sinai West receive deliveries from Sauce Pizzeria in the East Village.
Hospital staff at Mount Sinai West receive deliveries from Sauce Pizzeria in the East Village.
Like most restaurants, Famous Famiglia’s walk-in business has dropped since the pandemic turned New York into a ghost town. Inside the shop, pizza chefs and other workers wear protective masks and latex gloves as they prepare the orders to go out, stacking warm boxes on the counter.
Nikolla said the process for delivering the food hasn’t changed.
“We were never able to go up to the floors,” he says. He and other workers generally text the head nurse, or leave the food at the front desk.
More hot pies are flying out the door to hospitals from Sauce Pizza on E. 12th St. Owner Adam Elzer, 39, has transformed his East Village outpost into a sort of pizza triage workshop, closing it to the public and focusing only on production for staff at NYU, Montefiore, Columbia-Presbyterian, Mt. Sinai and Harlem hospitals.
Sauce makes and delivers up to 350 pizzas per day with the aid of 50 employees, an effort aided by the shop’s landlord, who froze his rent for three months.

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