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Schenectady Restaurant Week ends with power outage, applause

Schenectady Restaurant Week ends with power outage, applause

More Perreca's continues serving despite outage.
Schenectady Restaurant Week ends with power outage, applause
Maria Papa with the Perreca's oven in 2015. (Background) Ray Legere's candlelight photo (inset)
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ/Gazette (background), Ray Legere (Inset)

SCHENECTADY —  A power outage on the final day of Restaurant Week in Schenectady couldn't keep More Perreca's from serving its customers.

Instead, the restaurant's staff banded together and went to Plan B: Candles, ice and the coal-fired brick oven next door at Perreca's Bakery.

"We had 150 reservations in the book," owner Maria Papa said Monday. "But our staff does not miss a beat."

After it was all over, Papa took to Facebook to commend her staff for pulling it all off.

The power outage cut the lights at More Perreca’s just as dinner service was getting underway on Sunday afternoon. 

Shutting down the North Jay Street location wasn’t an option, Papa said. 

People come from all over for Schenectady Restaurant Week, she said, and the popular Italian mainstay views the week-long event as a way to show appreciation to new and year-round customers alike, including those who travel significant distances.

“We take that very seriously,” she said Monday in a telephone interview.

Other downtown restaurants weren't as fortunate, among them Cornells. The outage forced Cornells to close. A hostess Monday indicated they would be issuing refunds through gift cards or vouchers to customers who paid ahead of time.

More from this week: Our top stories March 9-15, 2019

Overall, though, the week went well, said Jim Salengo, whose Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation put on the week with the Capital Region Chamber and Discover Schenectady.

“All indications were that it was a fantastic week,” Salengo said. 

As for how More Perreca's pulled off their end to the week, their first moves were to food safety, Papa said.

Staff immediately mobilized and returned with 130 pounds of ice. Cooks then turned to the coal-fired brick oven next door at Perreca's Bakery to continue dinner service. 

As the sun set, light became its own challenge. Another staffer soon returned with at least 500 tealight-style candles.

That meant an impromptu candlelight dinner for patrons.

One of those patrons was local businessman Ray Legere, who commented on a Perreca's Facebook post with praise and a photo of his dinner lit by candlelight.

"It was an amazing experience to watch them all join together and to take care of the problem at hand," Legere told The Gazette Monday. "The staff was first-class and took it with smiles."

As for the results, Legere said the candles and darkness added to the ambiance.

Papa praised staff for making the most out of a stressful situation, which included using their cellphones as flashlight to take orders. Cooks largely navigated the grill by instinct.

“They improvised on the fly in this situation they’ve never been in before,” she said. 

Another patron turned to Yelp to recount her experience. The user, identified as Samantha L., called the service "stellar."

"By the end, servers were holding dinner plates next to candle flames to try and distinguish between meals... but did so with a smile and good humor," Samantha L. wrote. 

Once the power returned at 7:36 p.m., “the entire restaurant erupted into cheers and applause without hesitation,” she wrote.

Papa marveled at the outcome Monday.

"It’s a small miracle that it happened on Daylight Savings Time," Papa said. "Boy oh boy, we needed that extra hour of Daylight Savings Time."

Gazette reporter Steven Cook contributed to this article.

Correction 3/12 7 a.m.: An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled Jim Salengo’s name.

More from this week: Our top stories March 9-15, 2019


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