Only three weeks after COVID-19 cases were confirmed in New York City, the metropolis became the epicenter of the virus in the United States. Restaurants and bars completely shut down for dine-in service on March 16. And weeks later, the virus has shown a dramatic and tragic impact on people within the dining community.
Top chefs and restaurateurs like Floyd Cardoz, neighborhood stalwarts like butcher Moe Albanese, and lesser-known, behind-the-scene chefs like Jesus Roman Melendez from Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Nougatine have all died due to the virus. As of Thursday, May 21, in NYC, more than 200,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 20,491 people have died.
Below, Eater NY is remembering people in the restaurant industry who have died as a result of complications due to the novel coronavirus, listed by the date of their death, with the most recent ones first. Whether they ran revered restaurants in the Bronx or fried up chicken in busy Williamsburg bar backyards, these people left an indelible mark in their communities.
This post was first published on May 6 featuring 11 people; it now tells the story of nearly two dozen who have died due to the virus. If you know somebody who should be included, please send details and your contact info to firstname.lastname@example.org; we will continue to update this post.
Jimmy Glenn, 89, bar owner
For nearly 50 years, Glenn ran Times Square dive bar Jimmy’s Corner, which was well-known for its down-to-earth vibes and reasonable prices, even as the area grew into a pricey tourist destination. It was a particularly salient place for the boxing community — before going into hospitality, Glenn was a boxing world legend who spent time as a fighter and trainer. The bar displayed memorabilia, and fans of the sport considered Jimmy’s Corner a go-to spot. Up until his death, he remained a friendly face at the bar, and many visitors recalled his warmth.
Glenn went to the hospital in mid-April after experiencing symptoms of the virus, and on Thursday, May 7, he died. His son, Adam, who ran the bar with him, plans to reopen it when the pandemic passes.
Lloyd Porter, 49, restaurateur
As the owner of Bed-Stuy bakery Bread-Stuy and later Stuyvesant Heights establishment Bread Love, Porter was known for his generosity toward his neighbors and for being a welcoming face for newcomers to the area. He died on May 6 from complications related to the novel coronavirus after having showing symptoms for the virus nearly a month earlier.
Porter and his wife Hillary opened Bread-Stuy 16 years ago, and the cafe quickly became a go-to hangout spot for local artists, musicians, and students. The cafe closed in 2011, and the couple later opened another one nearby called Bread Love, though that has since closed as well. While Hillary was the baker in the family, Lloyd managed the business side of things and was known for hiring formerly incarcerated people looking to get back into the workforce.
Porter grew up in Bakersfield, California, and moved to New York City a little more than two decades ago. He planned to move back to California along with his wife and daughter to be closer to their family. Bed-Stuy neighbors held a candlelight vigil for him, and some neighbors have created a GoFundMe page to support his daughter’s education.
“Llyod was a pillar in Brooklyn,” hip-hop artist Blitz Bazawule wrote in a Twitter post. “His coffee shop Breadstuy is where I met some of my closest friends.”
Michael Halkias, 82, event space owner
Michael Halkias, owner of the eclectic Park Slope event space the Grand Prospect Hall, died from COVID-19 on May 6. He was 82 years old.
Halkias has owned the renowned hall, located at 263 Prospect Avenue between Fifth and Sixth avenues, with his wife Alice Halkias since 1981, according to NY1. The couple gained local celebrity status through a memorable Grand Prospect Hall TV commercial that featured the duo promising potential customers to “make your dreams come true” at the cavernous event space. The commercial aired nonstop for years on local stations across the metropolitan area.
“He was a man with big vision and an even bigger heart,” State Sen. Andrew Gounardes tweeted in remembrance of Halkias. “And of course, he made dreams come true for thousands of people who celebrated at his hall.
Jonathan Adewumi, 57, restaurateur
The co-owner of popular Downtown Brooklyn restaurant Amarachi died from the virus on April 28. He remained in the hospital for two weeks on a ventilator prior to his death, with his condition worsening toward the end, his brother told NY1.
Amarachi is a gathering place for the local African community and serves a wide range of Afro-Caribbean cuisine, including jollof rice, goat pepper soup, and suya. Jonathan’s brother, Adebayo Adewumi, told NY1 that Jonathan was “a great ambassador for Africa in showing breadth and the wealth and the regalness of our culture and history to the American populous.” Besides the restaurant, Adewumi worked on NYC’s Nigerian film festival, a clothing company, and a travel group promoting tourism to various parts of the African continent.
The restaurateur’s family has set up a GoFundMe to provide burial support and carry on his work.
Victor Morales, 33, bar assistant
Victor Morales, who worked behind the bar at Manhattan restaurants including L’Artusi and Dear Irving on Hudson, died from complications due to the novel coronavirus on April 24. He was 33.
As a bar assistant at L’Artusi, Morales known for his unflagging work ethic and attention to detail behind the bar, floor manager Will Garcia says. And his sense of humor banded the staff together. “Víctor had a way to make us laugh and get us through service,” Garcia tells Eater.
The bar team at Dear Irving on Hudson remembers Morales as “a ray of light,” bar director Meaghan Dorman says. He was a connector who was always happy to give restaurant recommendations, help plan birthday parties, or assist people with getting reservations.
Among his family, Morales was known to be responsible, friendly, and kind, his brother Freddy Morales says: “He always had a smile for everyone.”
Morales is survived by his wife and two children, who live in the Bronx.
Deodoro Monge Gutierrez, chef and restaurateur
Deodoro Monge Gutierrez, a longtime resident of Sunnyside and owner of Bliss 46 Bistro, died due to novel coronavirus complications on April 21 at Elmhurst Hospital.
Gutierrez had lived in the Sunnyside community for many years, having first served as a chef at Bliss and then Bliss Bistro. Five years ago, he took over as chef and owner, changing the restaurant’s name to Bliss 46 Bistro. The restaurant developed a local following for its take on classic French bistro dishes like escargots a l’ail. Bliss 46 Bistro has been closed since the start of the pandemic but Gutierrez’s wife, son, and daughter — all of whom work at the restaurant — say they hope to reopen later this year.
His daughter Melissa Monge has organized a GoFundMe to defray medical and funeral costs. A memorial service is planned later this year, which will return the chef’s ashes to Mexico, where his parents are buried.
Miguel Grande, 52, chef
The East Village’s resident “Pasta King,” Miguel Grande, has died from complications related to COVID-19. For the last two decades, Grande made pastas, desserts, and housemade breads at Supper, Lil’ Frankies, and Frank, a popular group of restaurants owned by Frank Prisinzano. He “was born with a talent in his hands” for making and shaping dough, according to an Instagram post from one of the restaurant’s servers, a skill that he often imparted upon his co-workers in Supper’s kitchen. Grande died on April 16 at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens. He was 52.
Though his dough was impressive, Grande will be missed most for his fatherly presence in Supper’s kitchen, his colleagues said. “For those of us who have had the pleasure of working with him, no words can encompass how much we will miss him and his smile,” his co-workers wrote in a GoFundMe campaign for Grande’s family. “Rarely will you meet a man with such dedication and skill and strong work ethics and kindness.”
Grande is survived by his wife Maribel Luna and four daughters: Guadalupe, Erika, Yulisa, and Emely.
Domingo Vega, 45, restaurateur and chef
Domingo Vega — the chef responsible for bringing step-above bar food to Brooklyn watering holes the Woods and the Breakers — died of COVID-19 complications on April 16. The 45-year-old chef worked for years as a line cook at popular Williamsburg restaurants like Pies ’n’ Thighs, the Commodore, and Diner, before eventually opening up his own business. The Bear, located in the back of popular Williamsburg bar the Woods, served tacos and fried chicken sandwiches to the area’s revelers.
As a chef, Vega was able to turn food served at bars into more than just bar food, eldest daughter Beatriz Vega says, but his best dishes may have been those that patrons never got to taste. “He was always more creative when cooking at home. We’re a Mexican family, and he would test his taco recipes on us before taking them to the restaurants,” Beatriz says. Vega is survived by two daughters, two restaurants, and a generations-old recipe for tacos al pastor passed down from his grandmother.
His daughter Yazmin is raising funds through GoFundMe to assist with his burial.
Vincent Mesa, 76, chef
Vincent Mesa spent more than half of his life working in the kitchens of Upper East Side restaurant Mansion Diner. In early April, owner John Philips closed the restaurant temporarily and gave employees the option of being furloughed or continuing to work limited hours. Despite being the restaurant’s head chef and longtime leader in the kitchen, “Mesa was one of the first employees to furlough,” Philips says. As the owner later learned, it was because Mesa had started to experience symptoms of COVID-19. He died a little more than a week later on April 15. He was 76.
Mesa began working at the Mansion Diner close to 40 years ago, in 1981, back when Philips was just 3 years old. The Upper East Side restaurant has changed considerably in its 75-year history, but through all of the renovations, expansions, and changes in ownership, Mesa has been a consistent presence in the Mansion’s kitchen. “He taught me how to make my first egg,” Philips says. The veteran chef is survived by family and beloved dishes like Mesa’s chili con carne, which will stay on Mansion Diner’s menu.
Vincent Cirelli Sabatino, 68, food vendor
Sabatino operated the popular Little Italy food stand Vinny’s Nut House from the corner of Mulberry and Grand streets — he was known affectionately to his customers as Vinny Peanuts. Sabatino died from complications related to COVID-19 on April 13, as his family announced on Instagram.
Sabatino took over the business from his grandmother, who opened the cart nearly a century ago. Aside from selling roasted nuts, Sabatino’s cart also specialized in Torrone, an Italian nougat with nuts, and other Italian goods like anisette toasts and lemon cookies. He was a neighborhood fixture. His nephew Danny Fratta wrote of him on Instagram: “Your character and personality is what made everyone love you and you loved everyone with a heart so big.” Even as Little Italy shrank around him, Sabatino and his cart were a constant reminder of how vibrant the Italian-American stronghold once was.
Jose Torres, 73, chef and restaurateur
The owner and chef at popular Parkchester, Bronx, Latin American restaurant Joe’s Place died from the virus on April 12. He was in relatively good health before he contracted the virus, a friend of the restaurateur told the Bronx Times. Prior to his death, he had plans to revamp his spacious restaurant, which he opened on Westchester Avenue in the Bronx in 1999.
Torres was a large presence in his community, and is remembered for his generosity and for doling out advice to neighbors. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams was one of his many customers and wrote that Torres was one of the city’s “great Puerto Rican legends,” and that “the impact of this virus is beyond words, it is claiming our living icons.”
Miguel Torres, chef
As a line cook at Cobble Hill’s bustling Long Island Bar, Miguel Torres “was sublime on the line, loyal to his team, and passionately devoted to his daughters,” the restaurant’s owners wrote on Instagram. The father and chef died due to novel coronavirus on April 11 at Elmhurst hospital.
By all accounts, Torres was an extremely proficient cook. “If you ate at the Long Island Bar between 2014 and 2018, Miguel cooked your dinner,” the owners of the restaurant said. Chef Alex Sorenson of the Blank Slate Kitchen described him as “one of the most solid cooks I’ve had the honor to share the line with.”
His wife, Ariana Ventura, is raising funds through GoFundMe to assist with his burial.
Samuel Hargress, Jr., 84, bar owner
The man behind Harlem destination Paris Blues died from complications related to COVID-19 on April 10, his son Sam Hargess III informed the New York Times. Aside from operating a beloved neighborhood bar, Hargress, Jr. was a fixture in the community who many people frequently turned to for advice.
“Sam was the custodian of, the soul ambassador of, that culture of community,” Marcus Samuelsson, the chef behind Harlem’s Red Rooster told the Times. Samuelsson too went to Hargress, Jr. for advice before opening his own place.
Hargress, Jr. owned the entire building the bar was located in, and Paris Blues operated as an extension of his life, his son told the Times. The fact that he owned his own establishment gave him great leverage: Even as the neighborhood around him began to change rapidly, and several longtime establishments shuttered, Paris Blues continued to be a destination for people looking for a taste of the neighborhood from the mid-20th Century.
Panayiotis Peter Panayiotou, 65, restaurateur
Panayioutou ran restaurants in Tribeca for years, including with former business partner Andy Koutsoudakis, who also died due to complications due to the virus. At the time of his death on April 5, Panayioutou had been operating Gee Whiz for more than 30 years. He was remembered by locals as making Gee Whiz a true neighborhood spot, hosting events for seniors and being one of the few places for teachers at nearby schools to eat, according to an obit in the Tribeca Tribune. The diner was also known for elaborate displays on holidays, which always kept “that corner of the neighborhood more lively than any other,” Tribeca Citizen recalled.
The restaurateur, who previously had a double lung transplant due to a disease he contracted from 9/11 dust, went into intensive care on March 26, his daughter Margaret said. He died on April 5, nine days after his longtime business partner Koutsoudakis. He is survived by five children, his wife Bibi Yasin, two grandchildren, a sister, and four brothers. His family requested that donations be made for hospital workers in his name, in a GoFundMe established by Koutsoudakis’s family.
Kathleen Elizabeth McNulty, 80, restaurateur
Kathleen McNulty was an owner of Forest Hills restaurant the Irish Cottage, a longtime community hub for Irish-Americans that her family closed after her death. The restaurateur, who was 80 at the time of her death, had run the local staple for Irish food, beer, and weekly music nights for nearly its entire 60 year tenure.
She tested positive for COVID-19 while recovering from a hip injury at a care center in Long Island, according to the Forest Hills Post, and passed shortly after on April 3 due to complications from the virus.
“She was a true Donegal woman who truly loved her job of filling up your hearts with 59 years of good times and cheers,” her son Dan McNulty wrote in a post on Facebook. Following his mother’s death, McNulty announced that the Irish Cottage would be closing after decades of business due to the COVID-19 shutdown. “It’s very sad, we were one of the oldest family-run Irish bars in Queens,” McNulty said in an interview with the Forest Hills Post. His mother had planned to return to the bar after recovering from her hip injury.
Joe Joyce, 74, bar owner
Joyce ran Bay Ridge staple JJ Bubbles for 42 years before his death on April 9 due to complications related to COVID-19. Joyce, who had recently returned from a cruise to Spain with his wife Jane, was admitted to the hospital on March 27 with low oxygen levels and died nearly two weeks later.
Over the years, his Brooklyn bar became a de facto gay bar in an otherwise conservative neighborhood. Joyce’s personal politics leaned conservative too, but neighbors say everyone always felt welcomed in the tavern, and that he opened up his bar for community fundraisers and events. Prior to opening the bar in 1978, Joyce worked as a physical education teacher for disabled students at a Staten Island school while also bartending at a nearby spot called the Tankard Inn. Joyce also served in the Vietnam War and was stationed in the seaside town Chu Lai.
Moe Albanese, 95, butcher
Legendary Little Italy butcher Moe Albanese died from the novel coronavirus on April 7. He was initially set to be discharged from the hospital on April 6, but his condition worsened. His granddaughter, Jennifer Prezioso, who ran their shop Albanese Meats & Poultry with him, made the announcement on his Instagram page.
As the face of his iconic butcher shop, which was started by his parents in 1923, Albanese was known for his warmth, thoughtfulness, and attention to detail. Eater critic Robert Sietsema called his porterhouse rib-eye steak one of the best in the city back in 2013. In recent years, his business was perhaps best known as the butcher shop on Amazon’s hit TV show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. His legacy lives on through his granddaughter, who plans to take over running the shop once the family is able to reopen.
Kamal Ahmed, 69, hotel banquet worker
Kamal Ahmed died on April 5 at a hospital near his home in Elmhurst, Queens due to complications from COVID-19. He was 69.
Born in Eastern Bangladesh, Ahmed eventually moved to the U.S. and worked for decades supporting banquets at the Millennium Hilton Hotel at One United Nations Plaza, according to the New York Times. Aside from his work at the hotel, Ahmed was known as a successful community leader: He was twice elected to run the Bangladesh Society of New York and helped other immigrants from his home country settle into life in New York, connecting them with jobs and apartments in the city.
In recent months, Ahmed helped members from the group find graves and plan burials for those who died due to the pandemic, the Times reports. He is survived by his wife, his two children, and a grandson, as well as five brothers and five sisters.
Joseph Migliucci, 81, restaurateur
The owner of iconic Bronx red-sauce joint Mario’s restaurant died due to the novel coronavirus on April 5. Migliucci had lung disease and was admitted to the hospital on March 31. He died six days later. He is survived by his wife, Barbara, their children, and their grandchildren.
Migliucci was a stalwart in Bronx’s Belmont neighborhood and the Italian-American community there. Five generations of his family have operated the 100-year-old restaurant, which was known for serving classics like chicken Parmigiana. Migliucci, who worked at the restaurant for nearly 50 years, was considered the patriarch by the local Italian-American community; a statement put out by Bronx’s Little Italy group remembers him as a “big, burly lovable man” and “an individual with a big heart and soul” — one who contributed both to the neighborhood and the fabric of the city as a whole.
Kosta Kasimis, 84, restaurateur
The owner of longtime Upper East Side diner Green Kitchen died from complications related to the virus on March 30. Kasimis was working at his restaurant right up until when he got sick in mid-March, his culinary operations manager, Francesco Gaudio, tells Eater. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
A Greek immigrant, Kasimis moved to New York City sometime in the 1970s. He owned a few restaurants in the city before he came to settle on Green Kitchen in 1980, a classic neighborhood diner that’s been at the same location on First Avenue and East 77th Street since 1931. A few years ago, he debuted a second outpost of the popular 24/7 diner several blocks north at East 84th Street and Second Avenue.
Kasimis was a very hand-on owner, Gaudio says, and he never once considered closing the restaurant during the onset of the crisis. A lot of neighborhood regulars rely on the restaurant and its food, Gaudio says, and Kasimis was a comforting presence. “He treated everybody equally from dishwashers to wait staff to bar staff,” Gaudio says. “He was such a great presence to be around. He was always open to new ideas and never stuck in the past.”
Jesus Roman Melendez, 49, chef
Cooks who have passed through Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s casual offshoot Nougatine agree that Jesus Roman Melendez was a real force in the day-to-day affairs in the kitchen. Melendez began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms on March 20, but was initially turned away from the hospital. As his condition worsened, he was finally admitted to Queens General on March 27. He died April 1.
Melendez served as a source of inspiration for the cooks who worked with him, and many of his former colleagues told Grub Street that he could often quickly diffuse tension in the kitchen between staff members. He was an integral part of what made the restaurant tick. “I don’t know a cook who went through JG who doesn’t have affection for this guy,” Amelia Rampe, a food editor who previously worked at Nougatine, told Grub Street.
Andreas Koutsoudakis, 59, restaurateur
The beloved chef and owner of neighborhood diner Tribeca’s Kitchen died on March 27 from complications related to COVID-19. Koutsoudakis, who ran restaurants in New York for more than 30 years, reportedly tested positive for the virus on March 12 and was admitted to the hospital more than a week later. He had closed his restaurant two weeks earlier for the duration of the pandemic “in order to support the city’s efforts and in order to keep our guests, team, and community safe and healthy,” he wrote on his restaurant’s Facebook page at the time.
The restaurateur moved from Greece to the United States when he was 14 and opened the Gee Whiz diner in Tribeca in 1989. He opened Tribeca’s Kitchen, a favorite among NYC politicians, in 2014. “He was a kind, warm, and cheerful New Yorker,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson wrote of him at the time on Twitter. “ He was always at the front door welcoming customers.”
Floyd Cardoz, 59, restaurateur and chef
The trailblazing chef behind acclaimed NYC restaurants like Paowalla and Tabla died from complications related to COVID-19 on March 25, making him one of the first major food-world figures to die due to the virus. He admitted himself into a hospital shortly after he returned from to India on March 8, and wrote on his Instagram page at the time that he was feeling feverish and had checked himself in as a precaution. His family confirmed his death on the morning of March 25.
Cardoz left an outsize mark on NYC’s dining community, from his start at celebrated French restaurant Lespinasse to opening the three-Michelin-starred Indian fine dining spot Tabla. Later on, he offered more contemporary takes on Indian food at Paowalla and Bombay Bread Bar. He mentored countless chefs and restaurateurs, including Will Guidara and Dwayne Motley, and is remembered by the dining world for his kindness and generosity.
“As relentless, stubborn, and unreasonable as he was on the surface, once you got just a little below the surface, he just had the most beautiful heart,” Guidara said of him at the time of his death.