Why Hospitality Is Important

Every gesture has value, from table decorating to grating cheese

Tables at Refettorio AmbrosianoFood for Soul

Sharing a meal around a table is a simple gesture that can help people to connect and communicate.

The thirteen oak tables at Refettorio Ambrosiano were each made by a different designer following the principles of a convent table: solid, stable and suitable for at least eight guests.

But the most important thing is that they are designed so that nobody can seat at the head of the table, making guests feel welcome and included.

Refettorio Made in CloisterFood for Soul

The three, long, Refettorio-style tables - designed by Mimmo Paladino and realised by local Neapolitan artisans - are made of wood and engraved with symbols.

Volunteers setting the tablesFood for Soul

"The social part of the experience is almost therapeutic - for guests, volunteers and chefs. It creates a convivial atmosphere that helps to rebuild dignity, all around the act of eating a meal.” - Massimo Bottura.

Carlo Bianchi, volunteerFood for Soul

“It’s definitely more what they give to me. It is an experience that truly changes you, that makes you feel useful and makes you want to never stop." Carlo “White”, restless volunteer at the Refettorio Ambrosiano.

Volunteers serving at Refettorio ParisFood for Soul

“What all volunteers share, regardless of their location, is the Value Of Hospitality."
Volunteers from Refettorio Ambrosiano flew to Paris to meet guests and volunteers at Refettorio Paris.

Chef cooking at Refettorio Made in CloisterFood for Soul

Every gesture has value, even grating a cloud of Parmesan cheese on a plate of pasta.

For the guests of Refettorio Made in Cloister in Naples pasta means home. And the more cheese you add, the better it is. For this reason, the day of the opening, the Neapolitan chefs who came to cook decided to serve maccheroni with tomato sauce, basil and Parmesan cheese...just like we would do at home.

Tables of Refettorio Felix decorated with flowersFood for Soul

The simple gesture of decorating tables with fresh flowers, gives people a sense of warmth and belonging that helps them to relax and enjoy the moment.

Shops and vendors donate their unsold flowers to the Refettorios' staff and volunteers who arrange them around the dining hall to welcome their guests. It’s the small gestures that speak the loudest.

Cart collecting food for Refettorio GhirlandinaFood for Soul

The vendors at Modena’s historic market, Mercato Albinelli, every Saturday and Monday morning donate their surplus produce to the Refettorio Ghirlandina helping to offer guests the opportunity to enjoy a nutritious dinner while advocating for a healthier and more sustainable food system.

Alberto, volunteer at Refettorio AntonianoFood for Soul

At Refettorio Antoniano, Alberto - a talented volunteer - hand-draws the menu for the families with children who come to eat at the Monday evening service, turning his talent into an act of beauty and every meal into a special occasion.

Chefs at Refettorio FelixFood for Soul

Chefs at Refettorios

Local and international chefs continue to support our Refettorios by volunteering in their kitchen on a regular basis: resident chefs of the Refettorios welcome guest chefs into their kitchen to work together.It doesn’t matter what backgrounds or culture they come from, it’s by joining forces that they are able to create something incredible. 

"Chicken on stick with soy sauce and popcorn" by Alex AtalaFood for Soul

The guest chef who made it knew that the pleasure of sitting around the same table isn’t just about eating, but about sharing, so that evening the guests at the Refettorio were given the chance to assemble their own meal: Chicken skewers, first dipped in a bowl of sauce and then in a bowl of crushed popcorn, both placed on each table.

Roasted recovered vegetables at Refettorio ParisFood for Soul

“The beautiful thing is that in a Refettorio, everyone is equal: guests, guest chefs, staff, everyone - all the prejudices are left at the entrance because in our Refettorio what really matters is how we welcome people, the service, the dishes, everything”. Maxime, resident chef at Refettorio Paris

Johnny, guest-turned-chefFood for Soul

“The staff of the Antoniano and Food for Soul saved my life.” Now regular chef at Refettorio Antoniano, Johnny himself was once a guest of the project.

Refugee Food Festival hosted by Refettorio FelixFood for Soul

The Refugee Food Festival is an annual initiative that allows restaurants and organizations to open their kitchens to refugee chefs. Joining the week-long celebration, Refettorio Felix welcomed with open arms Nigerian chef Chineze, who cooked a three-course menu for the guests of the Refettorio.

Refugee Food Festival hosted by Refettorio ParisFood for Soul

«When the story of life is embodied in a dish, then that is the story of freedom». Dish by Mohammad Elkhaldy, refugee guest chef at Refettorio Paris. The nest represents his home and the bird freedom.

Guests playing chessFood for Soul

Refettorio Felix in London is a culturally vibrant space, where guests can feel free to express themselves with different activities - play cards, read, watch movies, do yoga - and discover new talents, such as through art classes and professional training courses.

Games for childrenFood for Soul

Refettorio Antoniano in Bologna is not only a place to eat, but also a space for children and their families to spend time together and play - every Monday night, families with children in situations of social vulnerability sit together to enjoy a nourishing dinner.

A corner with toys is available for children to play and the volunteers laugh and joke with the guests while serving them dinner.

Andy, guestFood for Soul

People and stories

Andy the magician, one of the guests of the Refettorio Felix, dishing out tricks for the volunteers after the service!

Guest eatingFood for Soul

“Today for the first time I sat at a table laden with food, I felt like a real Neapolitan.” - Guest at Refettorio Made in Cloister

Fatou Dineg, guestFood for Soul

Fatou Dineg fled from Senegal as a refugee. Finding herself homeless in Milan, Fatou heard about the Refettorio Ambrosiano and she soon became a guest.

Giorgio Papetti, guestFood for Soul

After struggling with addiction his whole life, Giorgio decided to start over. He volunteered at a missionary organisation in Milan before joining the Refettorio Ambrosiano where he works as a warehouseman.

Giorgio’s warmth doesn’t cease to inspire the other guests of the Refettorio, many of whom are also on their path to a new life.

Stefi e Marco, guestsFood for Soul

Stefi and Marco have lived together homeless for the last nine years in a small train station near Milan.

Thanks to Don Giuliano they became guests at Refettorio Ambrosiano where they are known for their creativity: Marco composes songs while Stefi writes poems and makes bracelets.

Christiana Acha, guestFood for Soul

A young refugee from Nigeria, Christiana was forced into prostitution to survive. She managed to escape that trap and became one of the guests of Refettorio Ambrosiano.

She is now building a normal life in Milan with her daughter Grace.

Fawaz Naser, guestFood for Soul

A Jordanian immigrant to Italy, and an amnesia survivor, Fawaz is a guest at Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan where he is now trying to piece together a new life and identity.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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