A couple weeks ago, I couldn’t believe I was walking a block in Hayes Valley, chatting with Alice Waters, both of us on our way to an event at the former CALA restaurant, celebrating the launch of Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore’s Refettorio San Francisco. It was also a bittersweet send-off and salute to Italian Consul General Lorenzo Ortona, whose time in SF has sadly ended and is returning to Italy with his lovely family after bringing such a community-building spirit here in SF. Grazie di tutto, Lorenzo! It’s a wonderful legacy, however, to have played such a big part in facilitating the launch of the first Refettorio in the U.S., in conjunction with Farming Hope and Bottura and Gilmore’s nonprofit, Food For Soul.
Part of an international network of ten Refettorios, or community food hubs, this location will work with local community organization Farming Hope (founded in 2016) to offer paid, empowering, transitional employment to formerly incarcerated or unhoused neighbors; have daily dining for unhoused families and food-insecure neighbors; reduce food waste; and offer food education initiatives, cultural programming, events, and volunteer opportunities that promote social cohesion through a just food system.
Bottura and Gilmore joined us on a video call during the event, and Bottura could not contain his enthusiasm for launching in San Francisco—he visited here around 1980, and it had a huge effect on his thinking and perspective. He felt strongly about having a Refettorio in SF, the first in the U.S. (Have you ever watched the documentary about the Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan, Theater of Life?) I also am happy to see the work former GM Emma Rosenbush started at CALA—to help hire and train formerly incarcerated individuals—continue in this beautiful space (for now).
It takes $38K/month to cook daily for the community and run the program (they have provided 20,000 meals to our food insecure neighbors and recovered 𝟱,𝟱𝟬𝟬 𝗽𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱𝘀 of produce from landfill since the start of 2021), so your donations, volunteering, support, and awareness all help the project move forward. They will also welcome guest chefs, and need help placing cooks in food businesses and restaurants after they complete the program. Read more here about the project and how you can help. Follow @refettoriosanfrancisco on Instagram here. With our spaces reopening, it will be wonderful for them to start hosting meals on-site in the fall.
Something important is sprouting at the former CALA: Refettorio San Francisco. Photo: © tablehopper.com.