ANAHEIM — The banner stretching across the façade of Bruno Serato’s restaurant displayed all the timidity, reserve and inhibition of the man himself: it was a dazzling chocolate-box red, with brilliant white lettering the size of the front door that proclaimed “1 Million Meals Served.”
That’s how many dishes of top-quality pasta Serato has been responsible for placing before delighted underprivileged children in Orange County since 2005. And on March 24 Serato and many others celebrated the occasion by—what else?—putting on a big feed for approximately 400 needy kids at the celebrated chef’s White House Restaurant.
For 10 years, Serato has been acting on the inspiration of his late mother, Caterina Lunardi, who urged him to prepare substantial and healthy meals for the many “motel kids” and disadvantaged children in Orange County. Serato formed the charitable foundation Caterina’s Club, which today serves 1,200 children every day at 19 locations in nine Orange County cities. Serato has even expanded the reach of Caterina’s Club to Texas, Chicago and New York.
Serato’s gourmet pasta meals also are delivered each Thursday to the food distribution center on the Christ Cathedral campus, where they are served to about 100 homeless or needy individuals.
For the million-meal event, Serato prepared penne with braised beef in marinara sauce, along with vegetables and fresh fruit. It was served by a group of around 100 volunteers that included Academy Award-winning actress Mira Sorvino, members of the Anaheim City Council, the Anaheim Ducks and local hotel employees. Bishop Kevin Vann also took part in the festivities.
Serato’s largesse didn’t end with the meal. As part of the event, he presented an oversized key to a three-bedroom apartment to a family of seven who had been living in a motel for more than a year. The family was, he said, the 80th family that has been moved from poverty into adequate housing as part of a program Serato started in 2013 called Welcome Home.
“It was just beautiful to see all the community get together,” said Serato, “because we could not do this alone. It was a magical moment in my life.”