In its 99-year history, West Side Italian restaurant Santasiero's never permitted customers to pay for meals with credit cards. The cash-only requirement was a snug fit with the old-school joint's reputation for serving humble, affordable, cooked-with-love cultural classics, such as their beloved pasta fasoola.
On Friday, a credit card reader will be installed for the first time, to better accommodate customers requesting easier payment methods for takeout orders during the Covid-19 pandemic, with minimal physical contact. Sometimes emergency situations outweigh long-held traditions.
"People prefer curbside service instead of coming into the building," said John Brands Jr., Santasiero's operator. "It's more than the pandemic; it's an evolution for us."
A portable Clover Flex point-of-sale system will be installed, allowing customers to insert or swipe credit cards curbside, eliminating the need for cash to change hands and potential germs to be spread. (Note: Customers are encouraged to disinfect credit cards before and after transactions, and New Yorkers are now mandated to wear a mask in public situations.)
Brands noted other circumstances that precipitated the change at 1329 Niagara St.: limited payment options may have discouraged many customers from patronizing, with typically fewer people carrying cash; and regular customers were "thrilled" Brands even mentioned the possibility of plastic, prompting a Facebook post that received close to 500 likes and more than 100 shares.
"It's the way things are now," Brands explained. "It's for survival really, on both sides of that cart," referring to both the family business and for customers.
Brands represents the fourth generation of the family business, currently owned by his mother, Phyllis Brands. Santasiero's was started by Dominic Santasiero, Phyllis' grandfather, in 1921; Brands said Jan. 27 is the official date used for its opening, which means the 100th anniversary is roughly nine months away.
"We're in the same boat he was," Brands said of Santasiero. "He didn't know if he was going to be in business from one day to the next."
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1329 Niagara St. (886-9197)
Calling in orders ahead of time is smart. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, takeout only. Customers are still permitted to enter the restaurant and pay with cash, although, for safety reasons, curbside pickup and credit payments are encouraged.