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Omicron variant hurting already short-staffed restaurants in Tucson

Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria
Posted at 4:53 PM, Jan 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-10 22:26:44-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Rocco DiGrazia is one of the top pizza chefs in Tucson. The multiple awards that decorate his restaurant walls prove it, but there is no doubt that the pandemic has taken a toll on his business.

"We've had a lot of problems with COVID and specifically this Omicron variant blowing through our staff," said DiGrazia.

Over 20% of the staff at Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria have tested positive for COVID-19. Those employees are resting up and quarantining. That has left DiGrazia with an already slim staff to continue cooking and serving pizzas.

"In order to conserve labor for the weekend, when we're really busy, and also just give people time to heal, we're closing for take-out and delivery only on Monday and Wednesday, this week," said DiGrazia.

Hiring, in general, has been difficult for many restaurants since the pandemic began.

"This has probably been the most challenging year, the last six to eight months, of labor shortages that we've ever experienced, that I have during my time in the industry, as well as many of my colleagues. Not only those here in Arizona, but across the nation," said Arizona Restaurant Association President and CEO, Steve Chucri.

Despite the new Omicron variant and lack of staff, Rocco's has been busy, especially over the holidays.

"My customers are great. They've kept us alive during the construction, during COVID. They're really dedicated to us. We're really dedicated to them," said DiGrazia.

For that reason, DiGrazia is staying positive. He hopes, one day, his restaurant can serve a full house again.

"We'll get through this together. The end is in sight, I think," said DiGrazia.