Silver Spring restaurant feeds front-line COVID-19 workers

Spiro Gioldasis says his restaurant, Pacci’s Trattoria has lost 75% of its business during the pandemic. But he’s using his situation to help the surrounding community. (WTOP/J.J. Green)

Spiro Gioldasis was standing on a chair, with a screwdriver, gently repairing a chandelier that hangs over one of the tables at his Forest Glen, Maryland, restaurant. His wife Lula looked on.

Pacci’s Trattoria — which is normally teeming with a lunchtime crowd on Saturdays — was empty except for the two of them and two employees doing maintenance.

Gioldasis, wearing the mask that may become an enduring emblem of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, has been hit hard financially. “We’ve lost 75% of our business,” he said.

His staff has been trimmed from 22 to 10. But he’s a lot better off than many other establishments, and he’s using his situation to help the community around the restaurant.

“We did breakfast for the Silver Spring police station a few weeks ago,” Gioldasis said.

Pacci’s Trattoria — which has cut its staff from 22 to 10 — recently brought catered meals to local police and a nearby hospital. (WTOP/J.J. Green)

It made a significant impact, said Officer Speight, one of the 30 or so members of local law enforcement who were able to enjoy it. “It means a lot to us because there really aren’t that many businesses that want to reach out and volunteer their services to us,” Speight said.

At 7 a.m. on March 28, Gioldasis and his crew went to the Montgomery County Police Department’s 3rd District station and unveiled a feast. “We served roasted potatoes, bacon, scrambled eggs and eggs Benedict,” Gioldasis said.

Five days later, they went to Holy Cross Hospital and did it again. “We provided 50 lunches, little calzones and salads,” Gioldasis said.

And those little pies and salads were a big hit at Holy Cross.

“We are beyond grateful to our local friends at Pacci’s and others across the county for their generosity and sacrifice in what we know is their time of need as well,” said Kristin H. Feliciano, chief strategy officer at Holy Cross Health.

The hospital’s mission, Felciano said, “speaks to serving together in the spirit of the gospel to be a transforming healing presence in our community.”

“Having longtime members of the community taking care of us as we take care of them is not only fulfilling, it fuels our front-line heroes,” she said.

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And it appears Gioldasis’ generosity might have started a trend.

“We’ve had a couple of others follow after Pacci’s. I think Spiro set the tone for people to make these kinds of donations — especially in Silver Spring,” Speight said.

For hospitals such as Holy Cross, the frantic pace of operations at its two facilities during the outbreak has severely taxed many employees.

The tempo has robbed them of energy and time to do little else but look after patients, “who need extraordinary care for heart conditions, strokes, emergency surgery and the effects of COVID-19,” Feliciano said.

The care team — including nurses, doctors, and workers in food services and environmental services — “are so focused on caring for our patients,” Feliciano said. “The support of the community in caring for our basic needs like food or hydration is incredibly helpful.”

For some, she said, “it offers a few more minutes of rest — when they don’t need to pack a lunch — and for others, it provides a comforting break, especially since the food is so good.”

Gioldasis shrugs off his praise for his extraordinary generosity, saying, “it’s a challenging time, but it is what it is,” and he’s thankful for those in the community who have come by to buy takeout food and wine — the only things keeping his business going right now.

A part of that community support came from a group called the Holy Cross Food Fund GoFundMe Campaign. Gioldasis received $636.00 for the 50 meals provided to Holy Cross Hospital, which “we then subsidized, by $6.00, per meal.”

Drew Dropkin, co-organizer of the Holy Cross Food Fund GoFundMe Campaign, one of many raising funds in Montgomery County to help, said, “Because we are so grateful for their work on the front line in our community’s battle against COVID-19, we are raising money so that we can deliver food to Holy Cross’s staff to boost their energy and spirits, while also supporting Montgomery County restaurants that have been acutely affected by social-distancing restrictions.”

Gioldasis confirmed that the meals his restaurant provided to the Montgomery County police and firefighters as well were “100% donations from us.”

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J.J. Green

JJ Green is WTOP's National Security Correspondent. He reports daily on security, intelligence, foreign policy, terrorism and cyber developments, and provides regular on-air and online analysis. He is also the host of two podcasts: Target USA and Colors: A Dialogue on Race in America.

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