By Sofia Levorchick
Since they were teenagers, John and Deborah Urbinati have been immersed in the culinary world, sharing a passion for the restaurant business. However, it was when they met in a restaurant in Colorado that they decided to pursue their culinary journeys together.
After they married, the Urbinatis traveled across the United States, gaining knowledge about food, cocktails and wines. Once they moved back to New York, their love and passion for the industry propelled them to want to work in a restaurant together.
They partnered with the original owners of The Fifth Season in Greenport, then relocated and reopened the restaurant in Port Jeff.
As owners of The Fifth Season for almost 16 years, the couple found that they wanted to pair their shared passion for food with their desire to give back to the community.
“We’ve always known that food is a great connection with the community because it allows us to provide sustenance and comfort to people,” Deborah Urbinati said.
“Plus, we’ve always had a very strong sense of service to our community,” John Urbinati added.
Almost a decade ago, the Urbinatis came across the Ronald McDonald House Charities nonprofit organization, established at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.
The Ronald McDonald Family Room offers a welcoming and comforting environment within the hospital, providing patients and their families with nourishing food.
John and Deborah were initially asked to deliver a meal here and there, but their activity eventually evolved into a more extensive commitment between their restaurant and the foundation.
“The last thing these families think about is food in such a stressful setting,” John noted.
Deborah added, “Hearing the struggles that people are going through with their children, it makes it easy to want to do more.”
“And because we felt so good about being able to provide a service for people that are really in need, we realized we could do this every week,” John said.
Every Wednesday, the Urbinatis and their staff pack meals to be delivered to the Ronald McDonald Family Room. Beforehand, they take the time to brainstorm what meals to cook and send out, sometimes making the dishes personable.
Deborah recounted the time they had a patient from the hospital come into the restaurant because she had eaten their food at the Ronald McDonald Family Room. “She loved the chicken fingers, and when she unfortunately went back to the hospital, we ensured that chicken fingers would be specially delivered to her every week,” she explained.
Striking a balance between managing a restaurant and volunteering could seem to be a challenging feat, but the Urbinatis have made it a routine, motivated by the rewarding aspect of giving back while doing what they love.
“A lot of it is just a mindset,” John said. “You make it part of your daily routine. Once you make the commitment and decision to do it, you figure out a way to make it work,” adding, “It’s not just us doing the work, too. We have a tremendous team here.”
Collaboration among the Urbinatis and their Fifth Season staff has contributed much to the success of the overall philanthropic effort. Whether cooking chicken, packing up boxes or writing what’s on the box, the restaurant staff plays a crucial role in helping the Urbinatis in the Ronald McDonald House organization.
“All of the support staff we have here all step in and take a piece of the puzzle, and we’ll all put it together in the end,” John stated.
Sometimes, they even see volunteers from the Ronald McDonald Family Room come in for dinner. “It’s almost a full circle moment — we support them, so they support us,” Deborah said.
They have received an overwhelmingly positive response from families who are reaching out with emails, phone calls, letters and personal visits to showcase their gratitude for what the Urbinatis have done for the Ronald McDonald House organization.
“We go in doing it not looking for anything in return,” Deborah indicated. “But in return, we do end up feeling grateful that we’re able to help, and it makes us beyond happy to see that our efforts are fostering positive change.”
TBR News Media recognizes John and Deborah Urbinati as 2023 People of the Year for using their talents to improve our community.