The idea started back in 2003.
“I used to live in Toronto and saw a lot of homeless people on the streets and always thought of how I can do something for them so I used to just give them money as I passed by,” explains Mezzo Ristorante & Lounge owner, Filip Rocca. “When we opened Mezzo in 2002 I thought how nice would it be to feed people in need or who are just alone Christmas Day in a beautiful atmosphere with white table cloths.”
Filip says the response has been amazing. “Everyone that comes can’t stop saying ‘thank you sir for doing this’ and ‘God bless’. It makes me feel great to know that they are leaving full on Christmas Day and they also leave with toys or books.”
The event, now in it’s tenth year, has been a success because of the giving nature of Windsor-Essex residents. “I found it really good to have parents to have there kids pick two or three of there toys to give away on Christmas to other children who aren’t as fortunate,” says Filip. “I do this with my kids and they love it. We need used or new toys and books of all ages including adult books, hats, scarves and gloves.”
Even the Mezzo staff are willing to sacrifice their time with loved ones to come in on Christmas day. Filip and co-owner Michael Barlozarri put up a signup sheet for staff and it’s full within days. They even have to turn away volunteers due to the amount of support they receive.
So what makes Filip continue doing this in an economy that has seen restaurants in Windsor-Essex hit especially hard? “Just the smiles on kids faces and how they run to the table and say ‘mommy, mommy, look what Santa gave me,” Filip says. “Adults saying thank you and how much they enjoyed it, we get people waiting outside in the cold for us to open our doors.”
Mezzo Ristorante is already accepting book, toy and clothing donations at the restaurant. Those in need are welcome to arrive on Christmas day, December 25, 2012 from 11:00am to 2:00pm for their free meal. Filip even expands that offer.
“Anyone that wants to enjoy a hot meal with others instead of being alone or anyone in need of food is welcome.”