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One of Atlanta’s oldest restaurants raises $50K for employees hit by coronavirus outbreak

The restaurant has been a Buckhead staple for more than 40 years. Now its customers are giving back to employees in a big way.

ATLANTA — When you pass through areas of Atlanta during lunchtime, you would normally see bustling restaurants full customers. But now, in some plazas, every other restaurant is closed. 

But before owners are faced with the decision to throw in the towel or not, they want to make sure their employees are taken care of. La Grotta Ristorante is leading the way.

The restaurant has been a Buckhead staple, serving classic Italian cuisine for more than 40 years.

"We are arguably one of the first fine-dining establishments here in Atlanta, and continues to serve patrons," says managing partner Christian Favalli.

It's the kind of restaurant where customers have their favorite house seat, the decor is a decadent as the dessert menu and the average employee has worked there at least 15 years.

But like other metro Atlanta restaurants, the coronavirus is threatening its very survival.

“We had to shut our doors to the open public because of the virus,” Favalli said.

But he and his wife decided to turn to their loyal customers for support. They came up with a gift card campaign, hoping to raise about $10,000 to help the staff meet their basic needs.

RELATED: Production crews donate medical supplies to Grady Hospital

To his surprise, the financial love poured in, with customers donating five times that amount - a whole $50,000. 

“We had service staff member in tears. I was teary eyed," Favalli said. "At fifty-thousand dollars, we actually had to cap it, because there’s only so much we could shoulder."

"We feel blessed that a that this community has kept us in business this long, but at a time of need they really stepped up to help out our staff,” he added.

He said 100 percent of the $50,000 dollars will go to their 30 employees for the next two payroll checks.

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