• Verde’s Pizza and Pasta, located in Staten Island, New York, has received an honorable citation from the city’s public advocate for feeding migrants who have poured into the city.
  • The influx of migrants has sparked a political controversy, and the Bongiovannis, the pizzeria’s owners, feel torn between their political views and religious convictions.

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As a Republican, Sebastian Bongiovanni, co-owner of Verde’s Pizza and Pasta House in Staten Island, New York, isn’t happy about the recent wave of Central and South American migrants pouring into the area. But as a Catholic, he feels it’s his Christian duty to help them.

As reported by SILive.com, Bongiovanni and his wife, Danielle, received an honorable citation this week from Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams for providing free food to the migrants, whose presence has sparked a controversy in the West Shore neighborhood of Travis, where Verde’s is located.

Doing the Christian thing has made Verde’s a flashpoint for criticism, according to Fox 5 and other media outlets. It presents a tough dilemma for the Bongiovannis, especially since they just opened their restaurant in September and can’t risk alienating their customer base, which is primarily conservative in its politics.

Some of the recently arrived migrants are being housed by the city in little-used hotels. And when hungry migrants show up at Verde’s, the Bongiovannis feed them at no cost—they feel it’s the right thing to do. The pizzeria has also delivered free pies to the hotels, Gothamist reports.

In the case of one group of newcomers to the country, “They said they hadn’t eaten in three days, and when we fed them, they ate like they hadn’t eaten in three days,” Sebastian told Fox 5.

The migrants haven’t been welcomed by everyone in the neighborhood. According to Gothamist, a large majority of Travis voters supported Donald Trump for president in the last two elections. Some locals have claimed, without any factual basis, that the migrants are violent convicts released from Venezuelan prisons, Gothamist reports.

Verde’s Pizza and Pasta House / Facebook

“We’re Republican, and we feel there should be a border, and…there should be an orderly way” to deal with migrants, Sebastian told Fox 5. “A lot of people feel these migrants are overstepping the line, jumping the line, and I totally get that.”

But, he added, “I’m Catholic first, and, you know, listen, if I can help people, I will.”

Williams hand-delivered the honorable citation to the Bongiovannis on Wednesday, October 19. As debate over the migrants continues, Williams said it was important to remember that “we are talking about human beings.”

“It’s like I said the other day, it’s about doing the right thing,” Sebastian said, in accepting the citation, SILive reported. Danielle added, “It’s also about putting politics aside, no matter what we are, Republican or Democrat. Doing the right thing is most important.”

New York City has been struggling for months to manage the influx of migrants, many of them Venezuelan, seeking refuge. Per the New York Daily News, nearly 20,000 migrants have poured into the city this year. Earlier this month, the Biden administration unveiled a new policy to turn away many migrants from the southwestern border of the U.S. “Effective immediately, Venezuelans who enter the United States between ports of entry, without authorization, will be returned to Mexico,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement last week.

Verde’s Pizza and Pasta House’s legacy dates back to 1980 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where “Grandpa Joe” founded Verdes Italian Eatery, according to the pizzeria’s website. Although Verde’s Pizza and Pasta House uses many of Grandpa Joe’s recipes, they were all created by his wife, identified simply as “Grandma” on the site.

The online menu offers little in the way of details about the individual pizzas, but specialty pies include the Sophia Loren, the Grandma, the John Wayne, and Verde’s Al Capone Pizza. Meatball dishes, calzones, sandwiches, paninis, pasta entrees and wraps round out Verde’s extensive menu.

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