I KNOW you can donate a gazillion dollars and get a hospital wing named after you. Fork over a monthly amount from $325 to $600 (or even more) and you can join the Adopt-a-Highway program, taking credit for removing litter from a busy stretch of road. And I’ve even seen that generous people like actor Gary Sinise and philanthropists Billie and George Rose are publicly thanked on transport vans they have donated to charity.
I did NOT know, however, you could sponsor a dining bubble to help out a restaurant on a New York sidewalk. I stand corrected.
As we’ve all read, restaurants across the country have been coming up with inventive ways to feed people outdoors, where pandemic dining is safer. One place in my New York neighborhood has been making a valiant, evolving effort. During the summer, of course, things were easier. Indoor dining was closed down for months, but Finestra, which sits at the corner of York Avenue and 73rd Street on the Upper East Side, already had a little elevated porch under an awning out front. It normally held six or eight tables, but social-distancing took the number down to four. So the owners ran a strip of Astroturf-type “grass” along the sidewalk, a step below the porch, and another one on the side street, enabling them to put out six more tables.
As fall morphed into winter, things got a bit more serious. So the owners purchased canopies to extend over the green carpeting, erecting and disassembling the canopies daily. Winds picked up and they bought cabana-type structures with clear plastic “walls.” But the situation was less than ideal.
A week or so ago I noticed that Finestra had caught on to a possibility I had seen only in blog posts—clear plastic dining “igloos” that zip up two sides, ensconcing diners inside, one table per igloo. These igloos—there seem to be many variations—are branded Alvantor, which calls them bubble tents.
But the things cost about $500 each. And after shelling out for the earlier, less-successful solutions, buying five or six bubble tents certainly added up.
Enter Ranawat Orthopaedics. The orthopedic practice, operating in the shadow of the Hospital for Special Surgery, which lays claim to being the foremost orthopedic hospital in the country, decided to help out what must be its owners’ or staff’s favorite Italian-style place. How did they help? I don’t know; they haven’t answered my calls. But I know they did because of the paper signs that are taped to one of the bubble tents: “Sponsored by Ranawat Orthopaedics,” giving the address of the practice on East 70th Street.
That’s about all Finestra has to say about the “sponsorship.” As he took down the tents for the night, one server would only say, “They helped our business a lot.” I can only imagine.