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Restaurant adapts to new rules with Spring Garden

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The generosity of a neighbouring property owner is helping to keep popular Hamilton restaurant La Trattoria operating, its general manager said.

Nicola Russo said use of the courtyard that was once occupied by Spring Garden restaurant was offered to the Italian eatery in the spring by its owner, who prefers to remain anonymous.

Mr Russo said: “We have been allowed by the owner to use it during our time of pain and suffering. I can’t thank him enough. There is no charge.”

When the summer heat set in, Mr Russo said fewer diners were interested in the courtyard option, but that changed when government’s latest SafeKey regulations came into effect last Friday.

Mr Russo said: “There has been renewed interest from the people. They want to dine outside, but it’s a combination also with the numbers of transmissions going up.

“They want an alternative. If they don’t show a SafeKey, we can’t let them go inside. We apologise – but say they can eat in the Garden, or outside in the Lane.”

He said the Spring Garden courtyard can comfortably seat 35 diners. An additional 20 can be accommodated outdoors on Washington Lane, while the corridor leading to Spring Garden can hold five tables in the event of rain.

Indoors, La Trattoria had 170 chairs pre-Covid, but Mr Russo said “now we are lucky to do 70” due to seat distancing requirements.

Nineteen people dined in the courtyard on Monday, with an additional seven eating outside on Washington Lane. On Tuesday, 10 people ate dinner in the Spring Garden space, while six dined outdoors on Washington Lane.

Mr Russo agreed that every bit helps, saying: “Absolutely. Without it, it would be ‘adios, Trattoria’.”

He added: “If we didn’t have the space, those people would have had to leave because they didn’t have SafeKey and could not come inside.”

Overall, La Trattoria served 48 diners on Tuesday.

Mr Russo said: “Pre-Covid, we would have done 150, probably.”

He said the 17 months since Covid-19 began to impact the island have been difficult as the business has had to adapt often to a changing environment – from being open, to the island being locked down, to only outside dining being allowed, and so on.

Mr Russo said: “My head is in a spin from what is happening.”

The veteran of 42 years at La Trattoria said business was starting to pick up again before the Delta variant of the virus began affecting Bermuda.

He said: “When the Delta variant hit again, things were starting to get better. But when the Delta variant started, that was it. It’s sad.”

Mr Russo added that takeout and delivery service has kept La Trattoria in business.

He said: “In reality, takeout kept us alive. Without pick-up and the two companies that do delivery, Five Star and Sargasso Sea, we would have closed already.”

Despite the challenges, Mr Russo said the restaurant has retained its staff levels.

He added: “We are giving vacations, we are giving time off. At the moment, we are trying to keep everyone employed. They are in this with us.

“You can’t drop staff – you have to look after them until things improve.”

When the Spring Garden space first became available, La Trattoria featured “Aperitivo in the Garden” Wednesdays to Fridays, offering a range of drinks and appetisers.

Mr Russo said the late afternoon offering has been suspended due to the heat, adding: “As the weather cools down, hopefully in September, we will start again.”

La Trattoria’s outdoor dining space on the former site of Spring Garden restaurant (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
From left, general manager Nicola Russo, executive chef Angelo D’Amato, and assistant general manager Stefan Radu in La Trattoria’s outdoor dining space (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published August 26, 2021 at 8:11 am (Updated August 27, 2021 at 8:03 am)

Restaurant adapts to new rules with Spring Garden

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