Things like “What this time has taught us is to be true to who we are, genuine to others, and to never pull away from building, innovating, and working hard.” (From Pasquale Presa, Pasquale’s Neighborhood Pizzeria.)

And “We learned about how much our staff cares for each other. ... Each member of the team took a reduction in hours and I never had one complaint. I had team members that took reduced hours so that another team member could get more hours. This was done without me having to ask, done to help another family out that needed the hours more than they did.” (From Steve Dunn, Taco JED.)

And “We learned about the people here. The Rochester community has stood by our side through all of this. It brings tears to our eyes. We can’t thank this beautiful community enough.” (From Michelle and Myron Salz, Twigs Tavern & Grille.)

And dozens more.

Restaurants gave. The community gave back.

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READ PART I: ‘Be true to who we are’: Insider stories from the year that changed Rochester’s restaurant scene

Here are just a few more of those feel-good stories, collected over the past 13 months.

‘No questions asked’

“Kids can simply come in and say, ‘No school for me today’ and we will hand them a lunch.”

“When you order a kids meal, just say ‘It’s already paid for.’ We’ll take care of it.”

“Just call ahead and order the ‘School Lunch Special.’ However many you need. We’ll deliver them to your car.”

These are just a few of the notices from local restaurants, too numerous to mention, who, as soon as COVID-19 hit, immediately offered food—free of charge, no questions asked—to kids in need.

DID YOU SEE: Rochester's Favorite Restaurants 2021

They were one of the industries hit the hardest, and they’re one of the industries that has given back the most.

And, sometimes, they rediscovered something about themselves.

“Free kid meals are still in full swing,” posted one local restaurant owner. “We always knew we had great staff, but to put into words their selfless acts and dedication in this time of crisis is impossible. From our back of the house treating each kids meal like they paid top dollar, to our front of the house staff happily volunteering to deliver hot food when needed, in the pouring rain ... 20 miles away. #soakingbuthappy.”

One weekend. $18,000 in donations.

“In March of 2020, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester made the difficult decision to suspend the House Dinner program, which utilizes outside volunteer groups to provide meals to children and families staying at the House. In lieu of House Dinners, the House was ordering and distributing boxed or catered meals to guests. Over the course of one weekend, the House received more than $18,000 in donations to provide meals for children and families. Meals were purchased from local restaurants, catering companies, and grocery stores. One donor said: ‘I love that my donation, which is supporting the children and families at the House, is also supporting local restaurants and businesses—it’s having a ripple effect.’” (From Jacob Dreyer, Communications Director at the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester.)

‘We about fell to the floor in disbelief’

On a Saturday in January, two women arrived at Victoria’s Ristorante & Wine Bar and placed a complicated take-out order, according to a Rochester police report.

RPD Capt. Casey Moilanen said that when the person taking the order went to the kitchen to ensure the order was made correctly, the women went through the cashier stand and grabbed an envelope containing approximately $300 worth of tips.

The story, and video, was all over social media by Saturday night.

On that Sunday, five boys from Viola—ranging from age 9 to 17—stopped in to Victoria’s to order take-out.

And to donate $200 they’d earned selling sweet corn over the summer.

“We about fell to the floor in disbelief,” said restaurant co-owner Natalie Victoria. “The world is filled with amazing people.”

Cousins Carter Shea, 10, left, and Bronson Shea, 13, dropped off $200 to Victoria’s after hearing about the theft of their tip jar.
Cousins Carter Shea, 10, left, and Bronson Shea, 13, dropped off $200 to Victoria’s after hearing about the theft of their tip jar.

Nine days, 15,000 meals for locals in need.

From February 6-14 of 2021, 19 local restaurants agreed to take part in the Improv-ICE Buy a Meal, Give a Meal program.

In the program, every meal sold during that timeframe would equate to a meal donated to Channel One Regional Food Bank.

Those 19 restaurants served 15,594 meals (dine-in check, take-out order, or gift card purchase).

And Channel One—through donations from community supporters—received the equivalent of 15,594 meals for locals in need.

Those community supporters included Associated Bank, Benedictine Living Center, Bill the Pie Guy, Ellingson Insurance Group, Gwaltney Group, ISG, People’s Food Co-op, and Premier Banks.

“We would like to thank our Rochester locals that came out to support our restaurants over the past week, said Henry Clarin, director of operations for Nova Restaurant Group (Chester’s Kitchen and Bar, Terza Ristorante, Pescara Fresh Seafood). “We must rely on each other. The importance of knowing and understanding that our Rochester community will get Rochesterians through any hardships we encounter is one of those lessons we’ve learned from all of this.”