Chef Rocco Sacramone of Trattoria L’incontro Talks Vaccination Mandate

What Does It Mean for Business?

Over the past year-and-a-half, New Yorkers and local businesses have gone through multiple COVID-19 restrictions, mandates, restriction lifts, conflicting information, you name it. This past August, Mayor Di Blasio announced restaurant patrons must show they’ve had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine starting September 13 in order to dine indoors/go to bars, indoor venues, and gyms.

Rocco Sacramone, owner and chef of the renowned, authentic Italian restaurant “with a modern twist,” Trattoria L’incontro, spoke with us about how this could potentially affect business and how customers have taken to the new mandate.

Photo courtesy of Rocco Sacramone

Born in Abruzzo, Italy, Sacramone moved to the US in 1970 and has lived in Astoria for 50 years. His culinary journey began at age 14 when he worked as a dishwasher after attending school and eventually climbed his way up to a management position, learning the ins and outs of the restaurant industry. His mother, Tina, a cook herself, taught Sacramone about their hometown cuisine. The local chef opened Trattoria L’incontro off Ditmars and 31st Street in 1999.

“[The mandate] is not a shutdown, but we are imposing some sort of restriction. When you restrict someone, people won’t come out. I feel with this vaccine mandate, business will probably drop down another 20 percent,” Sacramone said. “In this business, you cannot afford to drop down another 20 or 40 percent.”

According to Sacramone, at the beginning of September his business was checking vaccination cards, but with some leniency. However, abiding by the city’s new requirement, Sacramone started to strictly enforce the mandate Monday, September 13. If businesses are found serving unvaccinated patrons indoors, they will receive a $1,000 fine for the first offense, $2,000 for the second, and $5,000 for the third.

“The dining experience is supposed to be great and they are messing with that experience. I have to be a bouncer and start this dialogue with people. It could get rough,” Sacramone said.

Luckily, he has not come across a defiant customer so far, but his customer base could be to thank for that. According to NYC Health’s COVID-19 Data, the Ditmars-Steinway area has a vaccination rate of 68.22 percent, which is higher than NYC’s overall vaccination rate of 66.44 percent.

“People should do what they want. I’m vaccinated, but if you don’t want to be vaccinated then you can’t really go out. We cannot be negative about things. We have to stay positive and be respectful of people in business,” Sacramone said.

Vaccinated or not, Sacramone’s lineup of mouth-watering dishes will be sure to please any food lover. The Costato Corta seems to be a fan favorite for those who can’t resist a braised short rib. Sacramone’s individual pizzas, Margherita and Sfiziosa, will make you never want to touch

dollar pizza again. And of course, what is an Italian restaurant without pasta? Do yourself a favor and try the Rigatoni Al Ragu Di Vitello.

Please keep in mind that the most important thing (besides food) is to respect and support business owners like Sacramone and their staff as we continue to move past these uncertain times.

Trattoria L’incontro: 21-76 31st St. | 718.721.3532 | @trattoria_lincontro