Piccolo Mondo

The dining room in Piccolo Mondo, 1642 E. 56th St.

Longtime patrons of Piccolo Mondo, the Italian eatery and Argentinian bakery closing at the end of this month, have launched a crowdfunding campaign to support the restaurant’s soon-to-be unemployed staff.

Piccolo Mondo, 1642 E 56th St., is closing its doors after almost four decades following owner Norberto Nas’ retirement, leaving eight staff — waiters, cooks, a busboy, dishwasher and baker — out of work and without severance pay at the start of the holiday season. In response to the restaurant’s sudden closing, Piccolo regulars John Murphy, Marc Schwertley and Gary Ossewaarde have created the GoFundMe campaign “Final Tip for Piccolo Staff” to provide workers a small financial cushion and thank them for their years of service. 

The virtual tip jar went live on Tuesday evening and has garnered more than $6,200 in funds from 67 donors as of Thursday afternoon. 

“It’s already twice as much as we thought we would get,” said John Murphy, one of the GoFundMe organizers and a resident of the adjoining Windermere House Apartments. “It’s just extraordinary.” 

News of Piccolo’s closing — first announced in a Facebook post by the owner on Nov. 6 — spread quickly among neighbors. Originally established in 1985 as a small Italian grocer, Murphy said that over the years the restaurant has grown from a place to pick up cold cuts and a bottle of wine to something of a “home away from home” for many residents, especially those in the Windermere.

He noted that several of Piccolo’s small staff have worked in the restaurant for decades — as long as many patrons have frequented the establishment — and neighbors were surprised to learn that these workers would be left without financial support.

“We found that there hadn’t been any plans to compensate the staff… (Workers) were simply notified that (Piccolo) would be closing and that was it,” Murphy recalled. “So I said, ‘maybe we should think about some way to give a final tip to restaurant staff,’ because I know many of us have gotten quite friendly with them and they’ve become almost like family.”

When Murphy and his late wife moved into the Windermere in 2009, they made a habit of patronizing Piccolo at least once a month. But, he said, several of the building’s residents dine-in as frequently as multiple times a week. 

Beyond this, he added, workers have been integral to making Piccolo a “go-to-spot” for family and community events over the years. 

“People often have had celebrations there after baptisms, bar mitzvahs (and) funerals,” Murphy said. “It really has grown as an integral part of the community in a way that not too many restaurants in Hyde Park have.”

In addition to the online donation platform, the fundraiser’s organizers have also set up a checking account at the Hyde Park Bank so as to more easily distribute the funds to workers and accept additional donations via direct deposit and check. Donations have ranged from $10 to more than $500, with the average contribution to the virtual tip jar of about $100 per donor.

Organizers say they hope to distribute the funds to workers on Piccolo’s final day of operations, Sunday, Nov. 27. 

To donate, visit gofundme.com/f/final-tip-for-piccolo-staff, or contact Murphy directly by email at jjmurph2001@yahoo.com or phone at 773-459-4081.

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