As staggered as it is by the coronavirus crisis, the Bay Area’s food and restaurant community has sprung to the public service opportunities offered by the pandemic: For example, Che Fico’s “family dinner fund” has helped thousands of needy diners, as have similar efforts in Oakland and Sonoma. Starting today, a San Francisco restaurant and grocery store are teaming up to help some specific groups of folks struggling during the shutdown by serving them free dinners once a week.
Called “Pay It Forward Tuesdays,” it’s a joint program from pizzeria mini-chain Fiorella and Bi-Rite, the Mission District specialty grocery store that’s expanded into a second location in NoPa, an ice cream operation, a Civic Center kiosk, and a catering business. According to Fiorella co-owner Boris Nemchenok, as of Tuesday April 7 and every following Tuesday until the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place order ends, Fiorella’s Richmond District (2339 Clement Street) and Russian Hill (2238 Polk Street) locations will hand out 100 free meals to healthcare workers and members of the restaurant industry, many of whom are currently, Nemchenok notes, out of work.
Speaking with Eater SF, Nemchenok says so many food, restaurant, and healthcare workers live in the same neighborhoods where Fiorella is located that “this felt like an immediate need we could fill.” The pairing with Bi-Rite isn’t any sort of elaborate corporate merger, he says. Actually, Fiorella co-owner Brandon Gillis just happens to know some folks at Bi-Rite, so the partnership happened organically as folks discussed how they could make a dent in the economic burdens placed on industry workers.
The nuts and bolts are simple: The free Tuesday meal is a choice of pizza (margherita, mushroom, or pepperoni) or pasta (cacio e pepe or pomodoro) from Fiorella, with a seasonal Bi-Rite salad on the side. Orders can be placed in person or over the phone at 415-829-7097 for pickup at the restaurant’s Russian Hill location or 415-340-3049 for the Outer Richmond, 4:30–9 p.m. every Tuesday. Right now, Fiorella can only sustain 100 free meals each Tuesday, so our advice is to order on the early side.
The free meal deal is available to anyone working in healthcare, as well as food industry folks including farmers, grocery store workers, servers, and cooks — especially those who have been laid off as a result of the crisis, Nemchenok says. “There are people with no income, and getting money for unemployment is...” he says, trailing off. “We’ve been fortunate enough, we’re able to keep 25 employees on and have managed to hire back five more. But there are so many other people in our industry who are worried about where to get a meal tonight. This is one thing we can do to solve that.”
Fiorella asks that anyone participating in Pay It Forward Tuesday provide proof of employment at the time of pickup. That can take the form of a current badge or paystub from March or April in the healthcare, restaurant, or grocery industries.