Joseph DiNicola, owner of Del Fuego Tex Mex Kitchen and Tequila Bar in St. James, believes coming through the devastation of Hurricane Sandy creating a lasting relationship between the restaurant and nearby residents.
Del Fuego was one of a few restaurants, alongside Rocco's, in the St. James area able to stay open and keep serving up hot food due to DiNicola's foresight.
"I set the panels up so we could tap in on generators if there was ever a catastrophe. We were able to stay fully operational via generators and we have met and maintained some great friends and customers from Sandy and the blizzard," DiNicola said.
Del Fuego turned to their neighboring restaurant, Rocco's, and worked side-by-side to get through Hurricane Sandy, providing each other with gasoline for generator and other needs to continue offering hot food to local residents - including those without cash.
"We just didn’t charge them, just come in and eat. People couldn’t go out and get cash, they kept saying, 'We only have credit cards.' But we didn’t have the ability to process credit cards, but we gave them food anyway," DiNicola said.
But Del Fuego and Rocco's staff went beyond providing a hot meal to those without electricity and, sometimes, heat.
"My staff was going to people’s houses and hooking up generators because they didn’t know how," DiNicola said.
This willingness to lend a hand during the devastation of Hurricane Sandy helped build a community vibe within Del Fuego.
Unfortunately, other nearby restaurants and cafes were not as fortunate, being caught unprepared in the wake of storm.
Among them was the FeelGoods Cafe, whose co-owner Nicole Lawrence said that losses stemming from Hurricane Sandy paired with the typical and expected slower business traffic in the winter, led them to close earlier this year on April 1.