“I just wanted to give back,” says Menbe Aklilu, owner of Salute e Vita Ristorante. For the fifth year running, Aklilu is set to host Salute’s Thanksgiving Day Celebration, an event where the upscale restaurant hosts meals for hundreds of local homeless and hungry women and men.
Giving back is personal for Aklilu. She overcame a life of domestic abuse and poverty abroad before coming to the United States and taking ownership of one of the most successful restaurants in Richmond. The restaurateur is making this year’s Thanksgiving event the largest yet, with nearly 1,300 guests set to receive a multi-course meal, flu shots, and more.
“It’s not only about the meal,” says Aklilu. “I want to give my guests a good memory of the experience. For at least one day they can be served, and they can be happy."
As the tradition of Salute’s Thanksgiving Day Celebration has grown, so has the number of guests served. Starting with 300 the first year, Aklilu served 600 the following Thanksgiving, and it’s grown each successive year. Of the 1,300 expected this year, 700 of them are veterans living in West County.
The meal has developed into a collaboration between local organizations and individuals.
Richmond Wholesale is donating 65 turkeys, Rubicon, a local nonprofit that provides support and services to the homeless, is donating supplies for goodie bags, a local party supply store is donating tents, tables, and utensils. The Richmond Community Foundation, of which Aklilu is a member, provided technical support. One man from Orinda heard her story about the event and donated $50,000 for the cause, according to the restaurateur.
“For me, it’s unbelievable,” Aklilu says. “I am happy to do this each year because it’s heartwarming, and it reminds me of my past and what people can overcome.”
Salute’s Thanksgiving Day Celebration takes place on Thanksgiving day from 10 am to 3 pm, at Salute e Vita Ristorante, 1900 Esplanade Drive in Marina Bay, Richmond. To learn more about contributing to the event, call (510) 215-0803.
Photo: Richmond Confidential