SAINT JOHN – Italian by Night’s kitchens are closed, but the people of Saint John can still enjoy the restaurant’s dishes via social media and even try their hand cooking the savoury meals.
Before the restaurant closed, Italian by Night partners Michelle Hooton and Elizabeth Rowe had discussed doing something to create some kind of contact with the community during this period of social distancing.
“I thought it would be a really fun way to put a little levity into people’s days,” said Hooton. “We have a pretty big following on Instagram and on Facebook so I thought this will be a nice way to interact with our guests.”
“A lot of our guests also love to cook,” Hooton said. “I get asked all the time, ‘Can I have this recipe, can I have that recipe?’ and I always say no, so I just thought this would be fun to do and it has proven to be lovely.”
The recipes she selects are uncomplicated dishes that can be made with ingredients that people already have in their kitchens.
“If you can’t come to Italian by Night, at least you can have it at home,” said Hooton.
However, she emphasized she has not revealed all of the restaurant’s trade secrets. “The recipes that I’m sharing are delicious, but not as they are at Italian By Night.”
The cheerful and colorful aesthetic of the posts were deliberately designed by Hooton.
“It’s difficult I think for a lot of people to just be home and be so very quiet when so many of us are so gregarious and busy and have active social lives,” she explained. “I just wanted the pictures to lighten everyone’s heart a little bit.”
Italian by Night has utilized social media previously to connect with its patrons. Last year Hooton created a campaign with the hashtag #HumansOfIBN, featuring the stories of the restaurant’s employees and how they became part of the restaurant’s family.
The response to the posts has been overwhelmingly positive, with comments going back and forth and people sharing their attempts at the recipes. The online dialogue is a natural continuation of how the chefs and guests would converse in the restaurant.
Hooton is also proud of the way many Saint John restaurants were proactive, closing even before the government ordered them to do so.
“I think the biggest thing that we did was take a leadership role in terms of closing, making that responsible decision that the most important thing that we could do for our employees, and for our guests, and for our own families, was to close and keep everyone home, and just be safe,” she said.
“I’m really proud to be part of it I’ll tell you; I know that my business partners, Liz and Gord, and I, we felt like we needed to be part of leading that charge and keeping us all safe.”