The lunch crowd at Anthony’s Italian Kitchen in Portland in 2011. John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Tuesday was Anthony Barrasso’s 80th birthday and the owner of Anthony’s Italian Kitchen in Portland got a gift worthy of the milestone: Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports, tweeted an announcement that Barrasso is a recipient of the Barstool Fund, a grant program Portnoy launched in December to help save small businesses struggling during the pandemic.

Barstool Sports is a popular sports and pop culture blog. Portnoy started the Barstool Fund with $500,000 of his own money, and to date, according to the fund’s website, it has raised more than $35 million and supported 243 businesses, from restaurants to dry cleaners and child care centers. Unlike other grant programs, the Barstool Fund offers ongoing support, based on financial information submitted in an application by the business, until it is out of trouble. Barrasso said Wednesday that his initial grant is for $25,000 and that he doesn’t know yet how much funding he will receive in the months to come.

Portnoy, or “El Presidente,” as he is known, contacted Barrasso Saturday to give him the news, calling just as Barrasso was headed out to his birthday party. Portnoy waited until Tuesday, Barrasso’s actual birthday, to tweet their FaceTime conversation. Barrasso recognized Portnoy right away and said, “Oh my god, David, are you telling me what I need to hear?”

Businesses are required to submit a video with their application. In his video, Barrasso – wearing a T-shirt that said “Today, I will be as useless as the ‘G’ in lasagna” – explained that Anthony’s Italian Kitchen, located at 151 Middle St., opened in 1992, but with customers no longer coming in from nearby businesses and the courthouse because of the pandemic, he’s now in trouble. “We’ve been working it every day, night and day, for 29 years now, and I just want to say we’re almost out of here,” Barrasso said, adding, “I really need your help.”

Barrasso said he owes six months in back rent, and he plans to use $15,000 of grant money to pay it. His landlord, he said, has been “very good” about “taking a few dollars at a time” and sometimes charging food that subsequently comes off his rent bill.

“I ask you, from the bottom of my heart, for all the help that you could give me and my family,” Barrasso said. “… I want to still be here when I’m 90, and I want to leave this to my children.”

Mae’s Cafe & Bakery in Bath became a Barstool Fund recipient in late January. Owner Katie Winglass described in her video – shot by her daughter Mae, the cafe’s namesake – how she has lost two-thirds of her tables for seating. The cafe, open 17 years, has 15 full-time employees, and “it’s my job to take care of them,” Winglass said, breaking down in tears.

“I’m really hoping we can find something to help us get through,” she said.

Barrasso’s and Winglass’ video submissions can be viewed at barstoolsports.com/the-barstool-fund.


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