A restaurant owner takes inventory of a cornerstone business that has survived COVID. Now he’s giving back to his patrons.

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Reflecting on the highs and lows of his years in business, Rob DeLuca says he counts his blessings. Now, with two locations on the go — Tottenville and the fledgling restaurants in West Brighton — he wants to sit back and celebrate those times.

“I feel like five years went by fast — but it was a long five years,” DeLuca said, adding a laugh.

He elaborated, “It’s a little bit of a bigger deal for so many years, especially with what restaurants just went through with COVID — and what our customers are going through with the economic situation.”

Colossal Shrimp in Spicy Tomato Broth with Roasted Cherry Peppers and Broccoli Rabe (Courtesy of Rob DeLuca)

So DeLuca is allowing the current state of affairs — elevated gas and food prices compared to past summers — as inspiration to keep patrons coming back by Sunday, Aug. 7.

“We will be offering lots of different promotions every day until Tottenville’s anniversary date – July 27,” he said.

Specifically at the Amboy Road restaurant, that means Monday nights, kids eat free. On Tuesdays, “Ten Dollar Tuesdays” guarantee $10 apps from a select menu of 12 to 14 options. Wine Down Wednesdays feature half-price glasses of wine and 33% off the bottle list.

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Langostino Appetizer on Regular Menu (Courtesy of Rob DeLuca)

Thursday’s already successful Lobsterfest will continue with an appetizer followed by a 1 1/4 lb. lobster dinner for $39.95.

Friday and Saturday Happy Hour “Patio Party” will be held in the garden and outdoor bar from 5 to 8 p.m. And on Sundays, DeLuca’s will present every table with a free order of the signature dish, Mamma’s Meatballs.

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Mamma’s Meatballs (Courtesy of Rob DeLuca)

RESERVED RESTAURANT INDUSTRY

As documented by SILIVE.com/Staten Island Advance articles and Yelp pandemic statistics circa June 2020, the restaurant business was devastated during the pandemic. While Yelp at the time, for example, reported a consistent closing rate nationally of 53%, DeLuca and several colleagues in the neighborhood food industry formed IROAR — the Association to Save the Independent Restaurant Organization.

The effort was massive, resulting in lawsuits and public appearances. As the group’s eventual de facto head, De Luca has toured national news and New York radio stations to protest the state’s ongoing ban on indoor dining in the summer of 2020. He and friend Max Calicchio of Max’s Esca have become spokespeople for strict regulations and vaccine card checks that put restaurants in the sights of politicians. DeLuca said the time away from the business is time well spent.

“We felt the need to fight for people who can’t do it themselves,” he said.

Anti-vaccine rally in New York

In 2020: Rob Deluca, owner of Deluca’s Italian Restaurant, speaks at an IROAR rally at the St. George Courthouse against vaccine mandates in New York. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)

DeLuca noted of those dark times, “Even though we still faced a lot of challenges—inspectors coming around and checking for masks and temperature registers and all that stuff…those were things they made us do that they never checked. I have a stack of 365 days of temperature logs that have never been checked.

He continued: “I guess it was the most challenging period for [DeLuca’s] — the locks. It was a very stressful time for me. We were going through something the people of this world had never seen before and we had to deal with it. Our customer base has supported us and as they say, the night is darkest just before the dawn…and the dawn came when we reopened. All the happiest times came together in one sense in 2020.”

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The outdoor dining area was expanded during the pandemic. (Courtesy of Rob DeLuca)

Guests returned in full force for parties, christenings, showers and dinners in the expanded outdoor garden area. SILIVE.com/Advance’s “Best Outdoor Dining” contest took home the top prize. With the roller coaster of business and the recovery from the pandemic, his appreciation of the hospitality industry has grown.

DeLuca concluded, “Every day I wake up and make people happy. You have to somehow navigate and make your way through all the challenges that are thrown at you. But if you do it with a positive attitude in this life, you come out on top. You just can’t give up.”

Pamela Silvestri is the Advanced Food Editor. She can be reached at [email protected].

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