Chef Bruno Serato serves 3 millionth pasta meal to Orange County kids
Pink and white balloons festooned the ceiling and a red carpet showed the way past tables where servers in white aprons stood behind steam trays at the Anaheim White House.
The VIPs arriving Thursday, April 11, wore T shirts and sneakers, but were treated as politely as restaurant patrons would be.
The occasion? Chef, author and philanthropist Bruno Serato has reached his 3 millionth pasta meal served to children in local Boys & Girls Clubs – and they were his guests Thursday to celebrate the milestone.
Serato, owner of the Anaheim White House, has been a restaurateur for more than 30 years, but it was a visit to the Boys & Girls Club of Anaheim with his mother in 2005 that launched Caterina’s Club, the nonprofit he named for her. Caterina’s Club now feeds pasta meals to about 5,000 kids a day at 89 locations in 29 cities, Serato said.
As the story goes, Caterina noticed a boy eating potato chips and learned that was his only dinner, so she and Bruno whipped up a meal of pasta to feed him and his friends.
Billy Saldana, now 23, enjoyed that first meal 14 years ago. He was used to eating beans, rice and carne asada at home, he said.
“My first time getting pasta, I didn’t even know what pasta was,” said Saldana, who works for the Anaheim Community Services Department and was volunteering at Serato’s celebration.
Kids filled their plates with chicken, vegetables and, of course, pasta, as clowns in rainbow wigs passed out shiny bead necklaces. Afterward, Serato was scheduled to pop out of a giant cake to help serve dessert.
“I really like it,” 10-year-old Alejandra Magallanes said of the meal, adding that she considers Serato’s restaurant “really fancy.”
The chef – who reopened his restaurant nearly a year ago after a devastating fire gutted it – said when he began following his mother’s advice to feed children a hot, filling meal, “I never thought that one day I would serve 3 million kids.”
He’s given some more than just a full belly.
Saldana said Serato is one of the people he most looks up to, and he likened the chef to the child in a story who found starfish washed up on the beach and began throwing them back into the ocean.
“He can’t really help everybody,” Saldana said.”But one by one he can help change somebody’s world.”