A taste of hope

Published 5:20 pm Friday, December 22, 2023

AHOSKIE – The staff at Vito & Sons Italian Restaurant work hard every day to make sure people enjoy a good meal when they visit. A new program will help to ensure that continues, even for people who may not have enough money to pay.

Jodi Maletti (right), owner of Vito & Sons Italian Restaurant, stands adjacent to a board containing receipts, paid for by customers, that people in need can use to enjoy a free meal. Also pictured are Caty Hampton and Karen Lassiter, wait staff at the restaurant. Staff Photo by Holly Taylor

When you walk inside the restaurant, located on Memorial Drive in Ahoskie, there’s a new board on the wall featuring an assortment of receipts. Those receipts come from generous customers who have purchased meals in advance for people in need.

“Customers purchase them, and then we take the receipt and put it on the board,” explained restaurant owner Jodi Maletti.

A person in need of a free meal can then take a receipt from the board when they come to eat at the restaurant. Maletti added that if a person is worried about being seen taking one, they can also simply tell their waitress that they need a ticket from the board, and they will take care of it for them. People can take their food to-go if they want, and can get enough for their family if they need to.

“There’s not a limit,” she said.

Maletti emphasized that they don’t ask why or judge anyone who wants a free meal.

“You don’t know everybody’s story,” she said. “You don’t know if the person you think is well-off could be looking at one paycheck short of not having a place to live.”

She got a little teary-eyed when thinking about it, adding, “those are the people we help.”

The idea got started when Maletti was originally trying to put something together for a Christmas meal because she said the holidays can be a struggle for people. When that didn’t pan out, her friend Lauren Turner suggested the meal board instead. The rest of the restaurant staff was supportive of the idea as well.

And Maletti liked it because the board is going to be a continuous thing, not just something special for the Christmas season.

“This is a way for us to show Jesus all year round,” she explained.

Maletti said everyone has been very supportive of the effort since it began. Customers have been very willing to donate meals, and people have been using the board when they need to.

“We’ve also been able to pray with some of them,” Maletti added.

But even if customers decided to stop donating meals, Maletti said the restaurant would continue it. Being able to bless someone with a meal is something they did even before the meal board, and something she said they plan to keep doing for a long time to come.

“We’re excited about it. Everybody needs food… and hope,” she concluded.