Restaurant Week — a 10-day event to promote Binghamton’s dining diversity — wrapped up Sept. 26 with a record-breaking 21,822 meals served and $8,534 worth of proceeds donated to the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW), organizers announced Friday at a news conference in Remlik’s Grille & Oyster Bar.

Restaurant Week has two editions each year. Chefs at 24 participating restaurants develop their own three-course menus for the event, each tailored for new and returning diners as a guide for what the restaurant has to offer.

The first Restaurant Week four years ago featured seven restaurants that served 6,800 meals during the event.

“When it started, it was an idea we thought would spur people to eat downtown,” said Piero Lisio, a partner at Little Venice Restaurant and the event’s co-founder. “We thought it would not only boost business, but also help a local charity and it’s since expanded.”

Mike Leahey, director of CHOW, said the funds will be a critical help for those in the community who depend on food donations, especially as the holiday season approaches.
CHOW provided more than 700,000 free meals to the needy in 2012. An estimated 40 percent of those served were children, Leahey said.

“We’re very thankful we live in a community where people support our local businesses and our businesses support a charity,” he said.

The previous Restaurant Week in March raised $7,259 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Binghamton.

In addition to its charitable element, Restaurant Week serves as sales boost for local eateries.

Joshua B. Ludzki, a Restaurant Week co-organizer, said the dedication of servers, dishwashers and other restaurant staff play as key a role in the success as the teamwork of restaurant owners who employ them.

“It would be really easy for these restaurants to be competitors,” Ludzki said. “Instead, what we have in Binghamton is this incredible cooperation.”

Restaurant owners said the event plays a key role in encouraging customers to explore new places and fill up tables during weekdays that might otherwise be slow.

“It’s great to see all the new faces; this has been our busiest Restaurant Week ever,” said Ed Wesoloski, a partner at Remlik’s.

Coupled with the recent influx of students and young professionals, events like Restaurant Week have helped create “a vibrancy that hasn’t been downtown for many years,” said Binghamton Mayor Matthew T. Ryan.

Another factor in helping the event prosper has been its ability to draw more customers from local communities outside Binghamton, Lisio said.

“Our hope is that people keep coming here even when it’s not Restaurant Week,” Lisio said. “It’s impossible to eat at all the restaurants in 10 days, so support them year-round — that’s the big message.”

Written by Anthony Borrelli

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