For Rocco Sacramone, the owner of Trattoria L’incontro in Astoria, it all started with a viral video: Sacramone and his staff, dining outdoors, on the sidewalk during last month’s big snowstorm.

“It was not to mock anyone, but it was to prove a point that in New York City it’s impossible to have dinner in the middle of winter,” explained Sacramone. “The snow showed up and here we are, having dinner in the middle of a snow storm. How does that work?”

Sacramone’s dinner al-fresco caught the attention of Dave Portnoy, the founder of Barstool Sports. 

What You Need To Know

  • Barstool Sports has raised tens of millions of dollars to benefit small businesses struggling during the pandemic through a viral fundraiser known as the Barstool Fund

  • More than a dozen local businesses have benefited from the fund so far

  • Trattoria L’incontro in Astoria, Queens was the first business in the city to benefit from the fund with a $100,000 donation

Portnoy met Sacramone for a curbside lunch two days later. Over pizza and wine, Sacramone shared the struggle faced by restaurants across the city forced to shut their doors to indoor dining once again due to coronavirus restrictions. His business is down 70% and he’s been forced to layoff about 90% of his staff.

“Everyday we have different rules, different regulations,” said Sacramone.

After that meal, Portnoy texted Sacramone to tell him Barstool would give him $100,000, through a fund that has raised more than $22 million for more than 100 business across the country so far. 

Business owners can submit videos sharing their pleas for help.

The only criteria is owners have to continue paying their workers.

Portnoy has promised it’s not a one-time deal, and that businesses will continuing getting the help they need.

“I think he’s an amazing human being. He’s doing more than our officials, our government are doing,” said Sacramone.

The praise and viral emotional videos of business owners reacting to the good news contrasts with past criticisms of Barstool Sports and the often controversial Portnoy, who has embraced being politically incorrect. But for some small business owners, who feel as though they have been failed by politicians during the pandemic, he’s an outspoken ally they want on their team.