“Even if you don’t think you know him,” said Toni Ann Cestare, 35, of Holtsville, “you probably do.”
Cestare was referring to her close friend Robert Verderosa, 40, who owns the restaurants Parlay and Mesita in Rockville Centre. Verderosa, who lives in Bellmore, is an entrepreneur whose businesses stretch from the Hamptons to Manhattan.
His friends say he takes great pride in his 1963 Chevrolet Impala, and even more in his two children, 8-year old Isabella and 5-year old Dominik. He’s an avid Mets fan, and for the past three weeks he has been watching their games from the respiratory unit of North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset.
On March 14, Verderosa had a stroke that damaged his brain stem and sent him to the ICU in critical condition. Eleven days later he was upgraded to stable condition and moved to the respiratory unit, where doctors worked with him on breathing and swallowing on his own. On Monday, Verderosa, who’s known as Rob Vee, was moved to the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in Manhattan. If he were to move back into his house, it would require modifications to make it handicapped-accessible.
Verderosa’s family was not aware of any signs of an impending stroke. In the hours leading up to it, he had experienced what he thought was vertigo, according to Cestare.
Cestare started a GoFundMe page called “Pray for Rob Vee” to help Verderosa and his family with his medical bills. Its goal is $50,000, and at press time it was well beyond the halfway mark, with nearly $30,000.
Verderosa’s friend and the fundraiser’s first donor, Brian Lewis Jr., 40, of Malverne, said that the first thing Verderosa would probably do when he recovered fully is have a party. “That would be him,” Lewis said. “Probably right after he went home and hugged his kids.”
Verderosa has also gained some local fame as DJ Rob Vee, emceeing parties at his businesses like Parlay and several nightclubs along Hempstead Turnpike. One of them, McHebes, became popular among local residents for its Friday Happy Hours before it closed in 2015.
McHebes was Verderosa’s first business, and it opened in 2003. He started building his “empire,” as Lewis called it, along Hempstead Turnpike as venues became available. In 2005 he opened Porky’s NYC in Manhattan, and Cestare became its marketing director. In 2014 Verderosa opened Parlay, and not long after he opened Salt on the Water, in Merrick.
Cestare and Lewis both described Verderosa as always being active in some new endeavor, planning a party or taking part in a community activity. Lewis said his friend could recover from his stroke with grit and willpower alone. “He’d say, ‘I’m too busy for this,’” Lewis said. “‘I gotta get back to work!’”
He added that less than a week before he heard about what had happened to Verderosa, the two were talking about a fundraiser Lewis wanted to plan at Crossroads Farm in Malverne. Lewis is a member of the board of directors of the Nassau Land Trust, which owns the nonprofit, organic community farm, and wanted to raise money by hosting a concert with DJ Rob Vee. He said that Verderosa often hosted fundraisers to help others. When Lewis heard about Verderosa’s stroke, he made the first donation because, he said, he knew his friend would have done the same for him.
Verderosa’s wife, Frances, has been taking care of him since his stroke, while her parents care for their children.
On June 11, there will be a fundraiser for Verderosa at McFadden’s at Citi Field, featuring a silent auction, raffles, food and drinks. For more information, contact Cestare at Prayforrobvee@gmail.com.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, there are more than 800,000 cases of stroke in the U.S. each year — and recognizing the signs and symptoms can help reduce that number. The institute designates each May National Stroke Awareness Month. This year it will host a Thunderclap on May 1st at 1 p.m. Thunderclap is a social media platform that allows multiple users to post one message at the same time. The institute uses the platform to share facts about strokes, how to lower the risk and how to recognize their symptoms. To take part in the NINDS Thunderclap, go to www.thunderclap.it/projects/55384-stroke-awareness-month-2017 and click “support with,” followed by the platform on which you would like to share the message. Thunderclap will automatically post it.
To donate to Verderosa’s GoFundMe page, go to www.GoFundMe.com/prayforrobvee.