Thursday, March 26, 2020
[Updated] Checking in at Il Posto Accanto
Text and photos by Stacie Joy
Updated: Bea and Julio decided to close after service last night for the duration of the outbreak.
When I arrive to pick up a to-go lunch order at Il Posto Accanto, 190 E. Second St. between Avenue A and Avenue B, I am ready to ask owners Bea and Julio (officially Beatrice Tosti Di Valminuta Pena and Julio Pena, or President Petunia and Babycakes as they call one another) how they maintain such optimism in the face of this pandemic.
However, taking one look at their faces, I can see it’s not the right question. Bea tells me they thought they’d have been busier, that they are not receiving many orders at all. Julio tells me he plans to keep the restaurant open at least until Sunday, but he doesn’t know for how long after that.
They both plan to go day by day and hope if they have to shutter that it will be temporary. They worry about their staff, and their comfort level and fears — most have families to support, and admit that they haven’t been paying themselves, that all money is going to their workers. No one is sure how rent will be paid.
After The New Yorker released a story on the restaurant Tuesday, longtime customers have been calling to brainstorm ideas for keeping the place open.
One customer plans on ordering food for 20 of his friends and having everything delivered so they can host an online shelter-in-place virtual Il Posto supper, complete with wine. Another customer encourages delivery via DoorDash, and pushed the restaurant to open an account.
Julio talks about the difficulties he’s faced with delivery services and the fees they want to charge. Right now, the restaurant uses DoorDash and Try Caviar, but if you are local and want a delivery you can call them directly and, as Bea says, “a valiant gentleman will deliver your food to you on bike if you are on the East Side approximately 10 blocks north or south of the restaurant.”
Julio says if you want an order for pickup, you can phone it in and he’ll make sure you get it in whatever way is most comfortable for you. He can leave it outside the door for no-touch pick up, or have it just inside the door waiting. He can run your credit card if you prefer not to pay cash.
Bea’s been making homemade hand sanitizer from 190-proof Everclear and spraying it on everything (except the food), even packages arriving from UPS and FedEx. She also sprays my hands, carefully avoiding my camera lens, and offers some to the DoorDash courier who arrives to pick up the veal saltimbocca with prosciutto sage white wine sauce and crab coquettes with pea shoots and spicy aioli order.
She even absently sprays some on her phone as she chats with her childhood friend, still in Rome, trapped in her home since the quarantine started there. Listening to them talk it feels like a preview of what we can expect here.
“I’m very happy Americans have discovered cooking at home, even if this is what it takes,” Bea tells me as she packs up my sciue spaghetti with tomato sauce and basil to go.
You can keep up with the restaurant on Instagram for updates and daily specials, and view our 2018 story on the East Village mainstay here.