Covid-NYC: Silvia Barban of LaRina

By Silvia Barban | Jaclyn Warren


Silvia Barban
Jaclyn Warren
Chef Silvia Barban of LaRina
Chef Silvia Barban of LaRina


The first month [of the shutdown] was the most challenging. I had to fire all of my ‘family,’ and I had a walkin full of food that I didn’t want to go to waste. We decided to stay open for a week [of retail], until the food was finished. That first week was so successful, but I had multiple breakdowns from being mentally and physically exhausted. I was the prep person, the cook, the dishwasher, FOH...everything. Then I was able to rehire a few BOH staff. I trained my dishwasher to start making pasta, fresh bread, and to help with prep. (We did get a PPP loan. The loan is a little tricky. We were surviving without it, but I wanted to rehire.) We ran into a little bit of an issue getting in some products: the semolina flour from Italy was just gone (everyone in Italy finished it!), some cheeses and olive oils, too. So, I had to tweak a few recipes. 


For reopening we’ll need to remove tables to accommodate the mandated 50 percent decrease in dining capacity. We have the backyard where we normally can do about 50 covers in one night alone. That will obviously decrease. We’ll utilize the empty space in the dining room for more retail dry goods and wines. When [the coronavirus] swept through Italy, my family and friends who own restaurants warned me of what was coming. I feel fortunate that I already had a market and a to-go food [operation] as part of LaRina. We didn’t have to change too much or rebrand. 


My family is in Lombardia, which has the most cases of coronavirus. One of the reasons I’ve carried so much stress is because I constantly worry about my family. My mother is an essential worker in the post office. She goes into work three days a week and she calls me everyday to tell me to stay home. 


When we do open LaRina for sit-down dining, will people even come? Our regulars come in for food to-go and market items, and maybe they’ll feel better about sitting outside. But inside is more difficult. I have to worry about my FOH staff as much as our guests. The people we rehire for FOH, are people we know and trust, so I feel comfortable that they will leave here and continue to limit their interactions with other people. I’m trying to get tested as much as possible. I take my temperature every morning. I would never want to be the reason someone else got sick. I have a responsibility to be as cautious as possible. 

Share on: