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Faith, family trump dollars at Rotterdam restaurant

Faith, family trump dollars at Rotterdam restaurant

If you plan to eat out on Easter Sunday, don’t bother calling ahead to Cusato’s in Rotterdam.
Faith, family trump dollars at Rotterdam restaurant
Marissa Citone poses for a picture at Cusato's Pizza in Rotterdam on Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Marissa is the front-end manager and daughter of owner Joseph Citone, who is attracting attention for a sign pro-actively advertising they are closed on Easte...
Photographer: Patrick Dodson

If you plan to eat out on Easter Sunday, don’t bother calling ahead to Cusato’s in Rotterdam.

“Closed Easter,” the marquee reads outside the eat-in pizzeria/restaurant on Altamont Avenue. “Thank God For Everything.”

Owner Joseph Citone says he is just another small businessman trying to get by, but the devout Catholic said making a buck isn’t everything.

“I’m just a little guy. We are going to follow our beliefs,” he said Tuesday. “Big companies, they seize on dollar signs.”

Citone has watched in horror as Black Friday has been pushed back into Thanksgiving and now Thanksgiving Eve. He doesn’t believe in making his employees work on major holidays, especially religious holidays, and laments the fact he is contractually bound to keep open on Sunday his restaurants on the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and University at Albany campuses.

But he can control his Rotterdam restaurant. And he can make a real gesture that calls out what he sees as a dollars-above-all culture.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Citone, who lives in Loudonville. “In the ’60s and ’70s, everything was closed [on holidays] when we were kids so people could be with their families. Now, everything is about profit.”

Other businesses close for the weekend or specifically the holiday, but Citone wanted to make a small but emphatic statement, even if he wasn’t sure how much it would be heard above the unrelenting din of commerce.

The family business put up a similar sign before Christmas. Citone said closing at 4 p.m. Christmas Eve and remaining closed all of Christmas day rankled some and definitely cost business, as will closing on Easter. But his daughter, front-end manager Marissa Citone, said many customers expressed support for the message being sent.

“A lot of people came in and complimented us,” she said.

“We want our employees to be with their families,” she added. “We encourage other people to be with their families. It’s a big part: We are always with the family, no matter what, on the holidays.”

Nancy Ippoliti of Rotterdam said she has only eaten food from Cusato’s once, but is more likely to go back after seeing the sign. In fact, she contacted The Gazette after seeing it.

“I give them a lot of credit. I was touched by that,” Ippoliti said. “People need to recognize what Easter Sunday is all about.”

Joseph Citone was surprised to get a call from a reporter about the sign, and more pleasantly so to hear a passerby was touched.

“We live in, forgive me for saying this, a sinful world,” he said. “People overlook these Christian holidays.”

But Citone said these holidays can be for all, not just Christians.

“Even if you don’t believe in religion,” he said, “spend time with your family. Enjoy the day.”

Just not at his restaurant.

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