An Invite from Vergant Founder Wendy Dubit

For all of my adult life, I have been eating and drinking to make a difference -- cognizant of the power that each act, every purchase and all of us have to change the world in simple but profound ways.

Like many things made more urgent and resonant in the aftermath of 9.11, never has our ability and responsibility to make daily differences been so clear and compelling.

Since October of 2001, Dining to Make a Difference has hosted toasts and happy hours at many of downtown’s hardest hit restaurants. In the process, the program has done much to strengthen community, rebuild downtown’s restaurant industry and raise awareness and funds for selected charities.

Now, Dining to Make a Difference is hosting a month-long May 15 - June 19 Festival that encourages participants to patronize as many South-of-Chambers-Street establishments as possible. Events -- all of which are open to the public and free of charge -- are being held each Wednesday throughout the promotion, and will culminate with a June 19 Street Fair, Auction and Awards Ceremony.

For every good and growing reason, we hope you will join us!

For details of the May 15 - June 19 Dining to Make a Difference Fest, please click here. And please do check out Janine Trusello’s Reports from the Dining to Make a Difference Trail.

To follow the Dining to Make a Difference route of people, places and programs that have persevered stoically and served heroically, keep scrolling. And please don't forget to dine out soon and often, bring colleagues and friends, book parties, attend benefits, and volunteer when you can!

Dining To Make a Difference: Programs, Places and People That Have Persevered, Served and Deserve Your Business


Moran's, 103 Washington St. at Rector, 212/732-2020,, open for lunch and dinner daily, is just south of World Trade and was, until recently, behind the military barricades. The restaurant, which has been housed in picturesque St. George’s Chapel since 1959, stayed open to feed workers in the immediate aftermath of 9.11. And many of those workers still salute the place -- and especially owners Brian and Abby Lydon -- when walking past.

Giovanni’s Atrium, 100 Washington St. @ Rector, 212/513-4133, open for lunch and dinner 7 days. Giovanni Natalucci, who has been serving home cooked native Italian fare here for close to 30 years, lost many of his closest friends and almost all of his business to the World Trade terrorist attacks. But his hope, faith and handshake remain strong. His heart is huge. And his staff is as warm and welcoming as he is.
  Roy's New York, 130 Washington Street, between Albany and Carlisle, 212/266-6262, Roy's is located in the newly re-opened Marriott World Financial Center, which earns our admiration and appreciation for the much that they've done (including serving as temporary Red Cross headquarters) in the aftermath of 9.11. It serves up superb Hawaiian fusion fare under the direction of Honolulu chef Roy Yamaguchi and executive chef Jim Dangler.

  West St. Wine & Spirits, 47 West St., near Battery Tunnel, 212/383-8300. Whereas dusty bottles can denote age; at West Street Wines, September’s thick dust was from devastation.  But Kenny Samami and crew have carefully cleaned each bottle by hand and are back in business. Now, this brave store at the outskirts of Ground Zero is deeply discounting cases and determined to deliver….
  RISE at The Ritz-Carlton New York, in Battery Park, Two West St., 212/344-0800, open 7 days from 5:30pm - midnight. Boasting delicious drinks and hors d'oeuvres and some of the city’s best views of Hudson, Harbor and Liberty, RISE is located on the 14th floor of The Battery Park Ritz-Carlton. While that luxury hotel’s opening was delayed by four months following 9.11, its recent arrival on the scene was a welcomed reminder of the beauty of our city and the strength of downtown’s resurgence.

  Vine Restaurant and Market, 25 Broad St. at Exchange, 212/344-VINE,, restaurant open Mon – Fri, market open 7 days.  Besides having one of the more magnificent and delicious restaurants downtown, owner Julie Menin founded Wall Street Rising as a way to revitalize downtown’s community and economy in the aftermath of 9.11.

  The Regent Wall Street Hotel, 55 Wall St. at William, 212/699-5555 Besides feeding and housing relief workers in the aftermath of 9.11, this world-class hotel (with renowned restaurant and lounge) also became a place of prayer -- hosting mass for nearby Trinity Church until Trinity re-opened its doors. The Regent continues to host many relief-oriented benefits.

  Famous Wines & Spirits, 40 Exchange Place, 212/422-4743,  History and recent events converge at this shop, which opened in the immediate aftermath of Prohibition’s repeal, and has been in the Platt family for three generations.  Not only are selections stellar and prices reasonable, but the store will deliver to you if you can’t get to them.

Dakota Roadhouse, 43 Park Place, between Church and West Broadway, 212/962-9800, open 11am on, 7 days. When military and construction barricades blocked access to his restaurant, just north of World Trade, owner Andy Menschel struck back…with spray paint! Now the barricades boast sayings like, "Bin Laden Missed Us, Don't You,” "The Red Cross Has Free Drinks…But Ours Have More Kick" and (our favorite), “The Place to Drink After Work, Before, During or Instead of Work.”

Raccoon Lodge, 59 Warren St., near W. Broadway, 212/766-9656, open 7 days from 7am on. This bar now opens its doors EARLY and stays open LATE so as to serve Ground Zero workers just coming off their shifts. It is a great place to share stiff drinks and incredible conversation with firefighters, construction workers, bartenders and friends.

  Chambers Street Wines, 160 Chambers St., 212/227-1434,  This stunning establishment, which opened in June, is based in Engine 29’s former firehouse, and is at the northern tip of Ground Zero. The selection is superb, and there is usually a fine bottle or two open for tasting.

City Hall Restaurant,131 Duane Street, betw. Church and W. Broadway, 212/227-7777, open 7 days. Chef/owner Henry Meer didn’t start out to be Mayor, but warms our hearts in the ways he heroically fed firefighters and relief workers, and hosted busloads of prayerful people who thought they were visiting that other City Hall….

Fire Battalion #1, 100 Duane St. across from City Hall. When in the neighborhood, please do pay homage to these brave men. Not only can you contribute to their Family Relief Fund, but you also can buy commemorative hats, shirts and signs that support the fund.

Roc Restaurant, 190A Duane Street @ Greenwich, 212/625-3333. Immediately in the aftermath of 9.11, owner Rocco Catalini mustered resources and staff to feed firefighters and rescue workers…right down to table seatings with white linen. Now, the place is even more favored than before by its TriBeCa neighbors, and also abounds with visitors hoping to sample superb fare and pay tribute.
  Salaam Bombay, 317 Greenwich Street, between Duane and Reade, 212/226-9400. This TriBeCa restaurant, which richly represents several of India's culinary regions, has always been a favorite with neighbors, but never more so than now. We hope you will join us for there for cocktails, dinner, and to celebrate downtown's resurgence on Thursday, March 4, beginning at 6:30pm. Cash bar and dutch treat dinner.

Bouley Bakery, 120 W. Broadway at Duane St., 212/964-2525. Bouley Bakery has been closed since 9.11 so as to prepare delicious meals for those working at Ground Zero. Volunteers are still needed through 12/2, and can schedule shifts by calling or e-mailing Alfred at 646/831-6895, Meantime, David Bouley fans can enjoy his exquisite fare at Danube, right around the corner, at 30 Hudson St., 212/791-3771.

Tribeca Grill, 375 Greenwich St., 212/941-3900, Drew Nieporent and his family of restaurants, partners and staff have always been heroic to us. But in the current crisis, they surpassed even their own heralded past -- not only providing stupendous meals and providing comfort to thousands of rescue workers, but also convincing Spirit of New York cruises to ferry those meals and that respite to Ground Zero. When Tribeca Grill, Nobu, Nobu Next Door, Montrachet, Layla and TriBakery, all of which are within blocks of each other, reopened to the public, they continued to feed those in need. Most recently, Tribeca Grill partner Robert De Niro directed busloads of friends not to his own interests, but to harder-hit restaurants south of World Trade, some of which were still behind military barricades.

F. Illi Ponte, 39 Desbrosses Street between Washington and West, 212/226-4621. Besides having fine Italian fare, superb sunset views and free parking, F. Illi Ponte’s Beca Bar has been hosting comedy benefits for local fire, police and relief organizations.

Capsouto Freres, 451 Washington St., 212/966-4900, Brothers Samuel and Jack Capsouto not only celebrated the 21st anniversary of their romantic French restaurant recently; they also served their heroes and neighbors graciously and deliciously…proving themselves even more of a TriBeCa treasure than before.

Nino’s, 431 Canal St., 212/431-5625. On September 12, Nino’s closed its doors to the public and opened them to New York’s heroes. For one full year from 9.11.01, Nino’s will continue to provide thousands of free hot meals a day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to Ground Zero police officers, firefighters, construction workers and relief personnel. To volunteer or contribute, please call 212/431-5625 or visit And please do pay tribute when you are in the area.
  Vintage New York, 482 Broome St. @ Wooster, 212/226-9463,, open 7 days. All the culture of New York agriculture and viticulture are kept alive at Vintage New York, which serves and sells a dazzling array of New York wine and food, and whose motto is “Think Global, Drink Local.” Vintage has been a huge booster of both downtown New York City and upstate farmers, winemakers and growers.

James Beard House, 167 West 12th, between 6th and 7th, 212/675-4984, This organization -- which celebrates our country's culinary artists via publications, education programs and events -- catered so bountifully to medical personnel and families on 9.11 and after that even folks filing past the missing persons fliers were offered gourmet goodies. Now, the James Beard Foundation is booking most of its benefits downtown, so as to boost New York’s hardest hit economy.

The Tonic, 108 West 18th St. between 6th and 7th, 212/929-9755. Tonic Restaurant not only prepared thousands of meals for relief workers in the aftermath of 9.11, but it also served as a clearinghouse for dozens of other restaurants and worked with City Harvest to truck sandwiches, stews, salads, beverages and desserts to feeding stations at Chelsea Piers, the Javits Center, the Armory and elsewhere. Some say that such "service" makes Tonic’s already excellent food even more appealing and healing than before.

Beacon, 25 West 56th St., 212/332-0500, Chef/owner Waldy Malouf, formerly of Hudson River Club, Rainbow Room and Windows on the World, has always been a trailblazer of both American Cuisine and culinary community, but never more so now. He welcomed and fed grieving chefs and families at his handsome restaurant on 9.11 and in the weeks that followed, and went on to found Windows of Hope with colleagues David Emil, Michael Lomonaco, Tom Valenti and others.

Ouest, 2315 Broadway at 84th St., 212/580-8700. While Zagat Survey claims that chef/owner Tom Valenti has "answered West Side gourmets' prayers" with his "clever menu" and "cutting-edge" fare; those weren’t the only prayers he answered. His restaurant served as a gathering place for the culinary community as they incubated Windows of Hope and other worthwhile efforts.

Windows of Hope, 415 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017, 212/893-3710, Perhaps nothing so signifies the uprising of hope out of ashes as Windows of Hope, a relief fund formed to provide immediate and ongoing assistance to the families of foodservice personnel killed in the 9.11 terrorist attack. On October 11, over 4000 restaurants (and a few lemonade stands) across the country and world donated a portion of their proceeds to the Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund, with ongoing events in progress and more than 4 million dollars raised to date.

The above list, which will continue to grow in the days and weeks to come, is just a small sampling of the many foodservice people, places and programs that have made a difference; and of the differences you can make. Please contact me if you would like to be on our mailing list for upcoming gatherings and programs, and/or if there are additional people and places you would like to see on these pages.

Although this Dining to Make a Difference list, and the toasts I plan to host in coming weeks at these and other places, is informed and inspired by 9.11, it is equally an extension of my longstanding commitment to making daily differences via every aspect of work and life.

To find out how your every act -- eating, drinking, shopping, traveling and more -- can have impact, please visit Give as you Live.

For every good reason, I hope you will join me.

Warmly and looking forward,



  WENDY@VERGANT.COM 301.530.0684
fax 301.530.5869