Pico Delivers a Special Message

 Pico Delivers a Special Message

By Katie McFadden

On the morning of Saturday, October 7, as Israel woke up to a barrage of attacks and some of the most horrific atrocities that can be done to humans by Hamas, here in Rockaway, a local restaurant was able to deliver a little bit of hope.

Details of what was happening across the ocean in Israel were barely starting to emerge in the U.S., when Pico on Beach 129th Street received a phone call for an unusual order. The caller wasn’t looking for pastrami tacos or a brisket burrito, but instead, it was a call for help. Rabbi Uri Pilichowski was in his town of Mitzpe Yericho, between Jerusalem and Jericho in Israel, when news of Hamas’ infiltration sent ripples of terror across the country. Fortunately, Rabbi Pilichowski’s part of Israel was not under direct attack, but they were affected, not knowing where Hamas was planning on heading next on a day that is reserved for Sabbath for those of Jewish faith. “Everyone was affected by the attacks. We weren’t attacked in our town, but we went into lockdown, had to carry guns in case of an invasion, and had to break our Sabbath observance to protect our lives,” he told The Rockaway Times.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., Uri’s daughter Temimah Pilichowski Segal and her husband, Yehoshua Segal, happened to be at Congregation Ohab Zedek on Beach 135th Street in Belle Harbor for the Shabbat and festival. As Orthodox Jewish people do not make or receive phone calls during Shabbat, Uri Pilichowski was unable to get through to his daughter to let his family know that they were okay. “I knew my daughter would be worrying about us and because of Shabbat, she wouldn’t be able to call us or read messages. I was worried about her more than I was worried about myself,” Rabbi Pilichowski said.

Rabbi Pilichowski had been to Far Rockaway before but wasn’t too familiar with uptown. But amid the terror going on in Israel, he had a brilliant idea. “I knew that a restaurant would be open and making deliveries. I thought that if I paid them to make a delivery of a message instead of food, I could get a message to my daughter and son-in-law,” he said.

He turned to Google to search for the closest restaurant to Ohab Zedek and came across Pico, a Mexican restaurant on Beach 129th Street. Uri decided to give the restaurant a call and hoped for the best. The response left him leaving Pico with a five-star review, despite never trying the food at the non-Kosher restaurant.

On the other end, manager Laura Grosseto Perez picked up the phone. She heard Uri’s plea and turned down his request to offer payment to deliver the message. “Laura was so kind. She wished us peace and safety and sent her delivery person right away to deliver the message. She refused payment,” Pilichowski said.

Local resident Liz Hanna happened to be doing deliveries for Pico that day. “It was downpouring and Laura turns around and said, ‘That was the saddest phone call’ and she starts telling me what happened and said, ‘Do you mind delivering this note to Ohab Zedek?’ I said ‘Of course,’” Hanna said.

Without even knowing the extent of what was going on in Israel at the time, Hanna didn’t hesitate to do what Rockaway does best for those in a time of need. “It’s just basic humanity. I don’t even think his daughter is from Rockaway. I’d never take money for doing something like that. I feel bad over the whole situation. I had no idea the full extent of what was going on over there. I had just heard that Prime Minister Netanyahu had declared war” Hanna said. “That night, both Laura and I watched the news and got caught up on what was happening.”

Despite not understanding the gravity of the situation, Hanna, the former owner of Brown’s Hardware, immediately went to Ohab Zedek to deliver the message that Uri and his family were okay in Israel. “I went there, and I could hear them all chanting, and nobody answered the door. I started going around the building and saw a super who I knew from the hardware store, who mainly speaks Spanish and I tried to explain to him that I needed this note to go to this girl. He said when they were done praying, he would give it to the rabbi. That was the last we had heard of it. I had no idea if she got the message,” Hanna said.

It wasn’t until a day or two later, when Hanna came across a mention of Pico on social media and found Rabbi Pilichowski’s five-star review of Pico for exceptional service. Temimah had received the message. As Shabbat ended in New York at 2:30 a.m. Israel time, Pilichowski had set an alarm to call his daughter as soon as possible. “She did receive the message and she was incredibly relieved,” Pilichowski said. “By delivering the message, the restaurant took a huge load off my heart.”

As Pilichowski shared his review and story on Facebook, it made it to local Rockaway pages, and many locals sang the praises of Laura, Liz and Pico, for the simple, yet important gesture that meant so much to a family in a war-torn area. Pico happened to be the first restaurant Pilichowski found and the first he called but coincidentally, he picked a beloved restaurant that has become a favorite among locals for 10 years, and will celebrate that anniversary on Saturday, October 14 with an all-day fiesta complete with a mariachi band, DJ and drink specials.

But those at Pico say any place in Rockaway would have delivered the message. “I think that anyone would have done the same thing had they called another restaurant or store. That’s the beauty of this neighborhood,” Grosseto Perez said.

“This got so much attention. We’re overwhelmed,” Hanna said. “It was just a simple thing. This world is messed up and it’s nice, little gestures like this that make people feel good. We would have done this for anyone.”

As for Rabbi Pilichowski, as we go to press, he says his family remains safe. “We are at home, and we are safe. There wasn’t fighting in our area, and we have always been out of range of rocket fire,” he said.

Rockaway will continue to pray for Uri. “Uri Pilichowski, the Rockaway community has you on our prayer list,” Hanna said in response to his Facebook post. “Stay safe.”

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