La Pizzica adapts quickly to meet needs of community during pandemic
La Pizzica restaurant run by Gianluca D'Aversa & his brothers. Picture: Merril Hammer
“The sense of community is important, we are all in the same boat,” says Gianluca D’Aversa who transformed his Fulham restaurant into a grocery store in just two hours when the eatery had to shut because of the coronavirus crisis.
He has set up a shop in La Pizzica in Fulham Road where personal shoppers can buy groceries – in a controlled way – or order home deliveries of groceries or restaurant food.
Mr D’Aversa runs the business with his brothers Rocco and Ivan and said they’ve seen a 70 per cent drop in takings at the seven-year-old restaurant since they had to close to diners when the lockdown began.
“Because we already had placed orders for the supplies, the vegetables, meat, fruit and supplies we thought let’s do something for the neighbourhood.”
He added: “We’ve had a lot of affection and support from the community.”
They also run a nearby deli which opened in 2009 – where takings are currently 40 per cent down on normal.
Restaurant in Fulham, turned into grocers. Picture: Merril Hammer
But their experience in running the deli meant they could transform the restaurant into a grocers’ store and even delivery groceries such as eggs, pasta and cakes and biscuits.
“It’s easier for us because we have a deli system in place. We set that up in the restaurant within two hours of closing everything – I loaded the car with all the products from the deli,” said Mr D’Aversa.
The restaurant normally welcomes 300 to 400 customers a week – currently staff are playing music and decorating the window with homemade pasta to make things cheerful and one customer is allowed in at a time.
Because of the crisis, the business, like so many in the hospitality industry, has suffered financially but Mr D’Aversa is determined to be positive.
Deliveries of pizzas and home cooked food and ready meals are still going ahead – but staff are wearing masks and gloves and ensuring they take precautions.
And Mr D’Aversa has even delivered groceries to customers as far afield as Croydon and Streatham in South London.
There’s a special Easter menu planned even if families can’t get together for a traditional meal and the team is also giving out recipe ideas.
However 60 per cent of the team is currently furloughed, which in some way is a relief, so they can stay safe at home with their families.
“We did not have to make anyone redundant – that was my biggest concern, we have managed to keep everyone on the pay roll with the help from the government.
“We are using our savings to give the money to our staff and will eventually get that back from the government,” said Mr D’Aversa.
He said the business rate holiday from Hammersmith and Fulham council, which has been applied across the country has also helped “but we still have bills to pay”.
But he added: “I am too busy to give up. My parents Grazia and Luigi taught me never to give up.”
Julia Gregory - Local Democracy Reporter
April 7, 2020