Eddie and Lisa Fazzone look at their restaurant like a Thoroughbred trainer does at the big horse in the barn, the star who could breathe greatness into the stable.
When the daily grind isn't sufficient motivation to want to get out of bed in the morning, the big horse is there, and suddenly pulling your feet from under the covers is not only automatic, but welcomed.
Next Tuesday, two days before opening day of the 152nd Saratoga Race Course meet, the Fazzones will have even more reason to crank up their popular Eddie F's restaurant and its signature lobster rolls just off Broadway in Saratoga Springs.
July 14 will mark the one-year anniversary of the death of the Fazzones' son Edward III — affectionately referred to as Little Eddie — at the age of 33 due to an overdose of Fentanyl-laced cocaine. So they'll host a fundraiser to benefit Healing Springs Recovery Community and Outreach Center, which offers free support programs in Saratoga Springs to people recovering from substance abuse.
Wearing bright tie-dyed T-shirts printed with "For the Love of Eddie & Meggie Too," which are on sale as part of the fundraiser, the Fazzones described their mission on Friday morning, a few hours before Eddie F's began its typically bustling routine offering seafood with a New England flair.
Besides their son, Meg Hayes, an Eddie F's employee, also died of an overdose last year, so this is a cause that digs deep to the heart of the Fazzones and their staff. Next Tuesday, the workers will donate their time and their tips, and 30% of the gross sales will go to Healing Springs.
"We decided [last year] this would be the best thing to do to get through some of the grief," Lisa said. "We'll have a 50-50, and we'll be selling the T-shirts. But some of the best things for me is that Healing Springs will be here, and they are going to be distributing, to those in need or ask for it, NARCAN and Fentanyl testing strips, which is a huge thing.
"I didn't anticipate that. I'm very excited about that. There will be some moms who have lost their children, if anybody needs an ear. Maybe you have a child that's passed, they have groups that you can join; or maybe you have a child that's using, and you just need to vent."
Lisa and Eddie are native Schenectadians, having graduated from Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons and Mont Pleasant high schools, respectively.
After 15 years running a restaurant in Florida, they returned to their roots in the Capital Region in 2016, when they opened Eddie F's on Clinton Street in a house well-known to city residents for years as "The Pink House" for its paint job.
After some early struggles, the restaurant grew in popularity, helped by word-of-mouth from people like their old friend, Gary Sciacca, a veteran of the New York circuit who trained some horses for Eddie in the 1990s before the Fazzones moved to Florida. They got back into the horse ownership game in 2018.
The current star of Eddie F's Racing stable is Chowda, whose name was picked by vote on the restaurant's Facebook page. He won the $100,000 Gander at Aqueduct in February, and one of the races he could target at Saratoga is the Sept. 4 Albany, the biggest race of the meet for New York-bred 3-year-olds.
They also have Chowda's full brother, a 2-year-old named Lobsta, who is expected to make his career debut at the Saratoga meet, and another 2-year-old named R Boy Little Eddie that they have high hopes for, even if he isn't quite ready to start at the Spa.
"Eddie [III] was definitely there with us that day, for sure," Lisa said of Chowda's win in the Gander at Aqueduct.
"With the year that had been, it was great," her husband said. "You do this your whole life. I've been going to Saratoga since I was 2 years old, running around the trees when the horses used to saddle around the trees. There was no fence. As a kid, we'd get the jockey goggles, run around the trees, get the autographs."
The tie-dyed fundraiser T-shirt, which replicates Eddie III's handwriting from a final letter he wrote to his sister, are an homage to him as a Grateful Dead fan.
"Their struggles [Eddie III and Meg Hayes], they're both very colorful, they both loved music, they both died at 33, they both died of cocaine laced with Fentanyl," Lisa said. "Their lives are so similar, that it was kind of like, 'The world brought us both together,' and then they both passed within four months of each other.
"Our son had one of these that he wore all the time. When he passed, everybody wanted it. So when we decided to do this, we did these shirts."
The Fazzones initially wanted to do their fundraiser for Healing Springs on a grander scale, but with COVID-19 imposing itself on everything, including the public's capacity to make charitable donations, they decided on the Tuesday event.
Besides raising money for Healing Springs, they wanted to keep a piece of the spotlight on opioid addiction, a problem that has perhaps moved to the background because of pandemic attention, but by no means has gone away.
In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has created more challenges for those who suffer from drug addiction and for those who want to help them.
"It's hard to ask other businesses to help," Lisa said. "So we're only doing the 50-50 and hoping people will be extra generous with the tip jar. Because it is hard to ask. . . . So we wanted to make sure it was front and center again as much as we could.
"You know, love, hope and lobster rolls," she said with a laugh.
"It should be an interesting week," Eddie said. "We've got the fundraiser on Tuesday, Wednesday is always huge for us because it's Lobster Roll Wednesday, $5 off, and then we've got opening day on Thursday."
"Ed and I are going to hop the fence like the old days," Lisa said.