Chef Pintabona organizes ships to deliver food

HOLLYWOOD — Much of the country has understandably lost its appetite for watching the monstrous events in Manhattan — but for the thousands of rescue workers frantically laboring in the rain, there remains clearly the need, if not the want, to eat. Indeed, most in uniform have been on 24-hour shifts without a hot meal.

To that end, Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, with chef Don Pintabona, are doing their best to make the mean streets of Manhattan’s World Financial Center a little less so: The trio are helping to provide hot meals and rest, 500 at a time, to Gotham’s rescue workers — using luxury cruise ships.

Pintabona, head chef at TriBeCa Grill (in which De Niro is a partner), stepped outside Wednesday night and saw a barge carrying water and ice to emergency personnel on the river.

“That’s when I realized the only way to feed these people is to use the waterways,” Pintabona said. “It’s insane to try and use the roads. There’s all this food here, and all these volunteers, but organizing and getting it to these people … it was a mess.”

Pintabona’s brainchild was helped through the red tape of the Coast Guard, Dept. of Transportation and Office of Emergency Management by Rosenthal and Gotham film commish Pat Scott.

Pintabona contacted Spirit Cruises, whose yachts, the Spirit of New York and the Spirit of New Jersey, will serve food donated from the restaurants of five-star Gotham chefs like Jean Georges Vongerichten, Daniel Boulud, Charlie Palmer and Gray Kunz.

As of 7 p.m. Friday, the Spirit of New York was at ground zero, at Battery Park City; the Spirit of New Jersey was at Chelsea Piers.

“There are a lot of mouths, and we’re only a few hours into this,” Pintabona said late Friday, “but so far, it’s going well.”

In the meantime, film commish Scott has directed her own staff of 17 to the New York State Armory, where the permit issuers are helping guide the flow of information about the wounded and missing.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more