by Terry Rogers
On Friday, April 10, Mama Maria’s Italian Restaurant in Milford began giving away meals to families in need as a way to give back to the community that had supported them over the years. Franco and Sal Laragione gave away 30 meal kits which included pasta, their signature sauce and fresh yeast rolls.
“When we had to close our dining room, we were going to have to lay off our wait staff,” Franco explained. “We just didn’t want to do that, so we came up with some unique ways to keep them busy. We added delivery and made them delivery drivers. We offered curbside pick-up, so they are running orders to cars, taking payments and giving change. Whatever we can do to keep them working. This was another way we could not only give back to the community, but we could also keep our staff working.”
Franco stated that they had turned their dining room into a warehouse where they were putting all the meal kits together. They are making two batches of their signature tomato sauce each day and each batch takes a few hours to cook. It then must be poured into jars and cooled before labels can be placed on the jars. Mama Maria’s staff is helping put labels on jars, put kits together and hand them out to those who request them.
“As of now, we have purchased 2,500 jars and are waiting for a shipment of 194 cases of jars to arrive,” Franco said. “Eric at Hold Paper was able to get us 100 cases of penne pasta from Italy. This was very important to me because it allowed me to give back to my hometown in Italy. In addition to the meal kits we are giving away, we are still doing a lot of carry-out orders. The support we have received has been unbelievable.”
The community has been offering donations to the restaurant in an effort to help them fund this project. Initially, the Laragione brothers intended to just give away 10 meals per day on a first-come-first-served basis. Because of the many donations they have received, the brothers have had to expand the meal service.
“We cannot say thank you enough to the community for helping us with this. We plan to give away 60 meal kits on Monday and Tuesday, 30 kits on Wednesday and Thursday,” said Franco. “Although we are open seven days a week, we are only doing the meal kits on four days so that we have time to replenish stock, clean and label all the jars for the next week. Weekends are also busy for us with carry-out orders so we need to take a break. We do hope that we can expand to 60 meal kits on Wednesday and Thursday if the pandemic continues, but we are still working out all the details.”
Mama Maria’s has partnered with Milford School District to give meals to families identified by the district each day. Each Monday, 30 families with children who attend Banneker and Morris will receive meals. Families with students at Ross and Mispillion will be chosen for meals on Tuesday with Milford High School families receiving meals on Wednesday and Milford Central Academy on Thursday. The district will select the families and notify them they are able to receive the meals.
“In addition to those 30 meals each day, we are also offering meals to families who do not have children in school,” Franco said. “They must call in between 10 and 11 to reserve a kit which is first-come-first served. Meals must be picked up between 2 and 3 PM. They will need to provide their name as we are only allowing one kit per family per week. In addition, we can only give one kit per car, regardless of how many families arrive to pick up the kits. We have to depend on the honor system that people are only getting one kit per week and we are hoping they understand that we are limited in what we can do, so we want to get meal kits out to as many families as we can. At the end of the day, we know the community has made our restaurant what it is today, and this is a way we can give back and thank them for their generosity.”
Franco said that he could not have done the free meal kits without the generosity of others, especially those who have donated to help him expand the service.
“I also need to thank a few people individually,” Franco said. “I have to thank Jim at Xtreme Graphix for all the banners and stickers they have provided for us, Rick Holmes from US Foods for keeping our supplies coming, Maria Griffin for her assistance with Milford School District, Michelle Sherman, my right arm who helps me coordinate everything and to Sue Cline for keeping my thoughts together and creating all my Facebook posts. Again, I need to thank Eric at Holt Paper for helping me support my homeland, Italy. We would not be here today without this community and the outpouring we have seen since this began has been heartwarming. We are happy to be able to help out in any way we can.”
Mama Maria’s continues to accept donations toward the meal project. Anyone who wants to donate can reach out by calling 302-422-2661.