Jim Murray, owner of Langhorne’s Tre Fratelli restaurant, doesn’t want to hear your story. If you’re in need during the COVID-19 pandemic, just call him up, say, “I’d like the baked ziti family special,” and leave a name for pickup.
That’s it. No questions asked.
“If you know somebody that’s struggling, needs something to eat, you don’t have to give us a whole song and dance,” Murray said. “It’s very simple. If you need some food, call up and order the family special.”
Murray, along with his business partner Larry Murray and staff, began offering free ziti dinners to locals shortly after Gov. Tom Wolf’s mandate that all eateries close their dining rooms and transition to takeout and delivery.
According to Murray, this generous offering came after much trial and error.
At first, he was convinced Tre Fratelli, his pride and joy of 20 years, would be forced to stop operations completely since the situation kept changing at such a rapid pace. Rather than let his stock of food go to waste, he figured, why not donate it?
The restaurant’s waitresses, whom Murray had to heartbreakingly put out of work with little notice, were invited, at no cost, to “shop” for food and essentials like toilet paper at Tre Fratelli.
Additionally, he thought of the area’s at-risk population.
“There’s a lot of deliveries that we do locally to folks that are wheelchair-bound or home-bound, elderly ladies and gentlemen that, you know when they come to the door and they get their food and they’re in a walker, that they have not been out and about,” Murray said. “How are these people going to get to grocery stores in a mad dash to get necessities?”
After sharing a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page, encouraging the 3,000 followers to call if they were financially struggling and in need of food, Tre Fratelli delivered so many free meals that it began to run out of items.
When it became evident that Wolf wasn’t going to prohibit takeout and delivery anytime soon, Murray knew he had to alter his plan of action if he wanted to stay in business. Thus, the idea for the complimentary baked ziti family special was born. It was something he could control better than giving out, for example, pounds of meat.
Word of Tre Fratelli’s efforts quickly spread, with individuals who don’t reside in Bucks County contacting Murray to make donations.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “This lady I don’t even know is telling me to charge her credit card for $300 to put it toward us helping people eat.”
Another individual contacted Murray about feeding the entire staff of St. Mary Medical Center. The man paid for 150 pizzas, and Murray donated an additional 80.
“It felt good and everybody seemed super happy about it. It was a win,” he said.
A cousin of Murray’s in Washington, D.C. also wanted to contribute $500 to feed a shift of workers at St. Mary. Murray matched his cousin’s amount, and 22 trays of baked ziti, salad and bread were enjoyed by almost 700 doctors and nurses.
While staff at Tre Fratelli hardly made a profit from these initiatives, Murray said spirits were still high…as well as laughter.
“The running joke was, ‘Come to Tre Free-telli,’” he said. “We’re very sarcastic at my restaurant, so everybody breaks each other’s chops constantly.”
As Murray continues to navigate the ever-changing landscape of the coronavirus pandemic, he sleeps soundly at night knowing that things aren’t all bad.
“There’s a big belief in this world that people are spiteful and hurtful and against each other. But you know what I’ve noticed? Do you see people killing each other or fighting with each other? No,” he said. “People are calm. They’re with their families. They’re donating money, they’re donating time. What I’ve seen in the last week is nothing short of spectacular. You want to talk about this disease being contagious? The contagion that I see is people doing good things for each other.”
Tre Fratelli is located at 17 Summit Square Shopping Center, Langhorne. Call 215-968-1700 or visit facebook.com/TreFratelli.Langhorne/ for more information.
The coronavirus situation continues to evolve on an hourly basis. Some of this information may have changed since ‘The Times’ went to print. Please check with individual businesses for updates.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org