PARSIPPANY — Inside Breda’s Pizza & Grill, a woman quickly tosses a used, folded-up paper plate and dashes out the door, while a man runs in to pick up a quick slice of pizza on a break, order to go.
Just over a year ago, Breda’s was a bustling eatery. From Thursday through Sunday, tables would be filled with guests from open to close. People loved the convenience (at the corner of N Beverwyck Road and Minnehaha Blvd), the delicious Italian entrees, and the cozy atmosphere. But since the Pandemic, like so many businesses, Breda’s tables are mostly empty, while the business has been doing everything it can to keep the doors open and the pizza slices slinging.
“I’ve been taking big hits in my business because nobody wants to eat indoors,” says owner Philippe Cardona. “Some days are good, but most days are bad right now. But I’m still trying, all you can do is try, right?”
As the pandemic was raging in the early months of 2020, Cardona found his focus shift from restaurant woes to supporting the community. He was sitting in the corner of his restaurant looking out the window at a neighboring business across the street.
“I remember thinking [one of the neighboring business owners] sons runs a transportation company for seniors, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘He got shut down from helping out seniors, what are the seniors going to do now? What happens to them?’”
Due to shelter in place orders, social distancing guidelines, and mobility issues, seniors were not only underserved but put in a situation where mental health and cognitive function could decline rapidly due to the sudden lack of social interaction. So, Cardona got busy doing what he does best, making delicious food.
“We called the Mayor’s office, got a list of senior citizens from Town Hall that were stuck at home, and we just started delivering food to them every single day, me and my family,” said Cardona.
Over the past 17 months, Breda’s Pizza and Grill has delivered nearly 10,000 meals to senior citizens around Parsippany-Troy Hills, all paid for out of Cardona’s pocket, and he has no plans to stop. Volunteers come to Breda’s every day in rotations of three. They pick the food up and deliver it to seniors throughout the township.
“What I realized, was it wasn’t just about the food, it’s also about the interactions [seniors] have with people,” says Cardona. “They get stuck at home with no interaction, and that can start to create dementia and other problems, that’s why I don’t want to stop.”
Onset Dementia has become far more prevalent due to COVID-19 restrictions. According to a recent study by the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, social isolation or loneliness in older adults is associated with a 50% increased risk of developing dementia, a 30% increased risk of incident coronary artery disease or stroke, and a 26% increased risk of all-cause mortality.
“Even with a lot of people getting vaccinated and things beginning to open up I want to continue to do this, to get them to interact with people,” says Cardona. “And a lot of people do need the food as well. One woman we see has Parkinson’s, so she’s constantly shaking, so she can’t cook. But if you can help somebody, you’ve got to help somebody, and pass it on to the next person.”
Breda’s has a gofundme page on their website (https://bit.ly/3pt9dm1) if people want to donate to the program. In the meantime, Breda’s will continue to do what they’ve done best for the past five years – serve up delicious food for the community.
Breda’s Pizza & Kitchen is open Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. To place an order or for more information call (973) 331-9911 or click here.