We know that Italians have a big heart. In the Italian American community there's plenty of examples, and today we are very happy and proud to meet one of them, who has been doing for 10 years something extraordinary.
His name is Bruno Serato, and every day he feeds pasta for free to almost 1,800 kids. Every single day, with Caterina's Club. So, please read carefully about him and what he does, and please let's help Bruno in representing another wonderful aspect of we, the Italians
Bruno, thanks very much for what you do. We think that you represent very well Italians' big heart. From which Italian region does your family come from?
From the Veneto area. My hometown is San Bonifacio, which is close to the small town of Soave, only 10 km from Verona.
I was born in France because my mom and dad left in 1945, after WW2. They went to work on a farm in northern France. We lived there for 15 years. In 1967 mom and dad went back to Italy, to San Bonifacio, to stay with my grandparents and my uncle.
I went to the US in 1980, because my sister married an American guy and she moved to California. So I decided to join her, and I had just 200 dollars in my pocket. When I arrived in California I started working as a dishwasher, and then my career grew up to waiter, manager and then I became the owner of my own restaurant.
It was your mother, Caterina, who had the idea to start cooking for the kids, right?
On April 18th, 2005, I went to the Boys and Girls Club of Anaheim, a small place where underprivileged children used to go. It was 4 in the afternoon. I met a boy, he was 7 years old, and he was eating potato chips. The director told me that the boy was a motel kid: he was living in a bedroom in a motel, in a place where used to live and hang around drug dealers, drug addicted, prostitutes.
So, in the motel room there was no kitchen, so his mom couldn't cook for him. My mamma, Caterina, said, "Bruno, why don't we bring them a hot meal tonight, even just a pastasciutta?" I said "You're right mom", and I made spaghetti with tomato sauce for them. And so it started: now it's been ten years since April 18th 2005, every day, seven days a week. In March 2015 we celebrated the one million meal we served. Now we are close to feed 1,800 children a day. We are also in 23 locations in Orange County, California: in 14 cities, but we won't stop here. We also have people who are inspired from what we do. They opened a Project Caterina in Mexico, Texas, Chicago, New York City.
I have to thank my mother Caterina, she's the one who had the idea to feed children with pasta that day. She deserves every award that I ever received in my life. She's the one who taught me that the best way to fight hunger is to give a little bit of pasta. She's the number one. Also, I have to thank the journalists, tv stations, CNN, ABC, Fox, you and all the others who ask for interviews, because through interviews I can inspire people all over the world. I have a message: with a little bit of pastasciutta we can take care of all the starving children all over the world. With a little bit of pasta we can help people in poverty, or people starving.
I also have to thank the staff behind me, the customers, because they help me keep this tradition. We couldn't survive without donations. I've been on my own pocket for seven years, and after that I lost the 40% of my business, I was very worried, very concerned, because the economy was so bad everywhere, and for me too. I considered stopping, because it costed me a lot of money, and many people started to donate. The donation to Caterina's Club helped me going on and to constantly increase the number of kids we help: because we started with one kid, then two, then one hundred, then five hundred, seven hundred, and now we have almost 1,800 kids.
We also started a new project, called "Welcome Home Project". It started a couple of years ago when I realized that many of the families lived in a motel room. There are also good American families who live part of their lives in motel rooms, they lost their jobs, they lost their houses ... as soon as they get a job they want to get out, but they need a deposit in order to rent a house, and often they can't afford it. These people have been through very difficult situation in their lives. When they find a job, if after 6 months they have a steady income, we give them enough money to cover the first and last month's rent, plus security deposit, to get out of the room and go to an apartment. Until now, we helped 90 families, 520 people.
How can our readers help Caterina's Club?
They can go to our website www.caterinasclub.org and do a donation. If they can't do donations they can do cook plate of spaghetti and give it to one poor person in their own town. If everybody does that in their own city, in their own town, in their own country, we can take care of people all over the world.
You started in 2005. In 2011 you've been named one of CNN's 10 Heroes of the Year. What is the future of Caterina's Club?
Now we're looking to do a teaching class, so kids can learn something about hospitality skills, and find jobs: working at restaurants, become chefs, working at hotels, study to work as hostess, waiters ... everything in the hospitality sector.
Do you use only Italian products?
We use many Italian products of course, we have an Italian menu: but we use everything, because if I get a donation for the children I'm not going to say no if it's not an Italian product.
What's your favorite pasta dish?
Spaghetti with tomato sauce, or with oil and garlic. I love pasta, it's my favorite dish. Because of the children, the spaghetti with tomato sauce have a special place in my heart. And spaghetti are funny to be eaten by children. I never met a child who didn't love pasta. It's my message: pasta can save many starving people, all over the world.
What can Italy do to help you?
Well, I've done different speeches with different companies in Italy, because Barilla supported me. They donated tons of pasta and tomato sauce to help my project: they've been doing for three years now.
I did a speech at the Milano Expo, and many people said they were going to help us. Honestly, we also need money donations, because if I want to move a family out of the motel room and get them an apartment, the donations are very important.
About pasta, there's a question that divides the Italian community: gravy or sauce?
In my opinion, people ask for gravy when they want something like turkey, an American dish. Nobody has ever asked me for gravy on my pasta. They want sauce for pasta: so for me it's sauce. Let's keep it that way, let's keep our culture.
Is there anything you wanna add?
If your readers have the possibility to make a donation or to give some pasta to someone who's starving, also give them a hug, give a smile to somebody who need it. You don't need money to make people happy, just offer your kindness. That would be good enough. Viva la pasta e viva la mamma.
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