On the night Hurricane Sandy swept through New York City I was safe and sound in my Brooklyn apartment with my two young girls. My husband, Stefano Barbagallo, was on a business trip in his hometown of Bardonecchia, Italy and could only watch the devastation from across the ocean. Perhaps this was better, because when the waters subsided I made way down to Front Street in the South Street Seaport where I found our restaurant Barbarini completely destroyed. The flood waters rose to 8 feet high in some areas of our Italian market and restaurant, ravaging our entire inventory of cheeses, wines and gourmet fresh foods. The force of the waters crashed through our glass doors, toppling expensive refrigeration equipment, pots and pans and tables and chairs. Together with our partners, we have put seven years of our lives into our beloved Barbarini, and now all that is left is a mess of pipes and rubble.
The owners of the building have told us that we will probably not be able to get back into our restaurant for at least six months due to structural damage. We did not have flood insurance. And the type of government assistance available to us comes in the form of low interest loans, not really a viable option when you consider that a single refrigerator costs $35,000 and that both my husband and I worked at the restaurant—so for the foreseeable future we’ll have no income coming in. Our hope is to start a new restaurant but we cannot be sure where and when that will happen. With all that has happened in the past month, we know that we are lucky to have a warm roof over our heads while so many are suffering. We are forever grateful for the outpouring of support from our families, our friends and even the kindness of strangers. The shock is beginning to wear off and we are ready to move on. The only question is how?
—written by Adriana Luque, co-owner of Barbarini market and restaurant in New York City. View photos of the damage at http://smallknot.com/donagallo, where a fund has been set up to help this small business get back on its feet.