ROXBURY, NJ – Even in the darkness of a growing pandemic, the love of pizza – and the joy of giving it to others - remains strong in Roxbury.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the township continues to increase, but it will never surpass the number of pizzas being donated these days to police, fire, first-aid, hospital staff and social services recipients.
It’s impossible to know about all the random acts of pizza kindness taking place. However, it’s unlikely any hotspot of Roxbury pizza philanthropy is surpassing Luigi’s in Succasunna.
The little bistro in the Roxbury Mall has become an epicenter for pizza charity, bolstered by owner Paul Bellardini’s social media pledges to match some pizza donations and set weekly goals.
Powering Through Pandemic with Plenty of Pies
“Everything took off out of nowhere,” said Bellardini, thanking Chris Cafaro (owner of TAPinto Roxbury sponsor W. Kodak Jewelers) for starting the thing on March 25 by donating ten pizzas and salads to Roxbury families on the Roxbury Social Services client list.
Inspired by the idea, individuals, families and businesses soon began ordering pizzas from Luigi’s and directing that they be delivered elsewhere. Some, like Scotty Tree Experts owner Scott Gulick - are paying for complimentary pizzas given to Luigi’s walk-in customers. “We just wanted to do something nice for the community,” Gulick said.
Others - such as Brandon Curtis of Standard Tile in Succasunna (also a TAPinto Roxbury sponsor) - are using Luigi’s to donate pizza to people working in the few retail businesses allowed to stay open. Curtis had Bellardini deliver pies to workers at the Succasunna ShopRite.
Thanking Those on the 'Front Lines'
Succasunna residents Craig and Madeline Heard, known for their annual “Halloween House” display, have been donating food bought from local restaurants as a way of thanking those forced to continue working during the crisis.
Using Roxbury Pizza as their source, the Heards donated some pies to the Roxbury Police Department last Thursday. This week it’s sandwiches from Sandwiches Unlimited in Ledgewood. They’re also giving pizza and sandwiches to the medical teams at hospitals in Denville, Dover and Morristown.
Heard said they’re doing it “to show support for our nurses, doctors and staff” and the police. “In this difficult and dangerous time, we are trying to put a smile on their faces while they are on the front lines to protect us and care for us,” he said.
Despite having to furlough most of its staff, Roxbury Diner & Catering, another TAPinto Roxbury sponsor, is doing what it can to help the less fortunate. "As always we are here, and we will be happy to donate meals to anyone in need," says its Facebook page. "Please call us if you want to deliver food to someone in need or have them pick up."
Roxbury Rotary Club President Steve Alford said some people are coming in the diner and pre-paying for others' meals in a "kind of pay-it-forward" movement.
Roxbury, Morristown and All Points In-Between
But when it comes to food that's easy to donate and deliver, it seems pizza reigns supreme. However, delivery is the key and, unlike other local pizzerias, Luigi's never felt the need to do that, Bellardini said.
“We have a customer base that would come in, get food and catch up on whatever was going on,” he said. “People would joke that good pizzerias don’t have to deliver. But at this moment, I soon realized we are turning into a delivery pizzeria because we have to bring pizzas to the hospitals, to the police, to the grocery store workers and to the individual homes of some customers.”
His next challenge is helping Roxbury Social Services Director Janet Wald figure out how to get pizzas, such as those donated by Realtors Tammy and Alyssa Abusci, into the hands of Wald's clients. A plan, proposed by Wald, to have recipients collect the pizzas at a makeshift drive-through at Horseshoe Lake Park did not sit well with township officials.
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