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Separated by the pandemic part 3: Caring for the Caregivers

Mary Graziano Richard stands in the lobby of her Grazi To Go take-out restaurant in Lisbon. Behind her are two of the original doors and other items from the famous Graziano’s Casa Mia Restaurant found by her father in 1969. (Photo by Nathan Tsukroff, PortraitEFX)

The following story is the third of several interviews being done by Nathan Tsukroff of PortraitEFX to capture the effects of this pandemic on the people of Maine. 

Healthcare workers do everything they can to care for their patients. But who is caring for the caregivers?

Mary Graziano Richard, owner of Grazi To Go, which opened in the basement of an old church in Lisbon in January 2019, brings 70 to 80 meals each week to caregivers at the Central Maine Medical Center and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston.

“We try to do day and evening shifts, so each shift can get some,” she said. Meals are delivered either Wednesdays or Thursdays. 

Richard said that Jessica Strelitz, a Brunswick native now living in Virginia, reached out to her and asked if she would be willing to collaborate on a project raising money and feeding the workers at local hospitals. “We are raising money from any local people and even folks from out of state.” 

Richard is the daughter of Joe Graziano, who created Graziano’s Casa Mia Restaurant that served Italian fare from its location on Route 196 in Lisbon for 43 years. Graziano opened the restaurant in 1969. He had moved to Maine from Utica, NY, in the mid-1960’s to manage a McDonald’s restaurant in Lewiston. He died in 2000, and the restaurant was closed in 2012.

The restaurant was known for its boxing theme, with rooms in the restaurant named by round. Graziano was Chairman of the Maine Athletic Commission in the early 1990s.

Richard started working at the restaurant at 10-years-old, “doing dishes and helping clean. And then around 12, I started cooking,” Richard said. “I like making the sauce, and for meals, I like doing veal and chicken parm.” 

In a nod to the family’s restaurant, Richard installed two original doors from Graziano’s Casa Mia in the Grazi To Go lobby, along with paintings and other wall art.  

The menu is very similar to the Graziano’s Casa Mia menu, Richard said. One of the most popular items is the specially-made Italian dressing that customers call, “Liquid Gold”. Joe Graziano came up with the recipe for the thick dressing, which “makes the best marinated chicken or Portobello mushrooms,” Richard said. 

Grazi To Go is open Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and only provides meals for take-out or delivery.

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