Dubai: Almost 150 labourers got the chance to savour a Piadina sandwich for the first time in their lives last Saturday, thanks to a “suspended meal” donation programme launched by an Italian restaurant in Dubai.
The suspended meal [pasto sospeso] is an idea that stemmed from the traditional initiative of suspended coffee [caffé sospeso] that originated in Naples in Italy.
The suspended coffee initiative allows a customer to pay for an extra cup of coffee for a needy person. Similarly, the suspended meal is its extended version of sponsoring a meal.
Italian celebrity chef Rubio earlier this year launched the suspended meal concept in Rome where he cooked meals for the underprivileged people living in the neighbouring community.
Chef Rubio’s idea inspired Matteo Bianchi, the managing director of Piadèra, an Italian flat bread restaurant that opened off Shaikh Zayed Road in April in the C1 building in One Central.
Bianchi invited Chef Rubio to officially introduce the suspended meal programme for labour camps in Dubai on last Friday.
“One issue with the suspended coffee concept in Italy is that you do not know if the free coffee is going to someone who truly deserves it. But, here, we know exactly who the intended recipients are. We reach people who cannot afford it,” Matteo told Gulf News.
The 33-year-old entrepreneur said he felt obliged to the construction workers who have built the wonderful buildings in the city.
“It is a small way to give back to the workers with the help of our customers. Most of them may not have tasted Italian cuisine. It is also a chance for them to feel that they have had something Italia.”
The Year of Giving, he said, is the perfect time to launch the charity drive that is also in line with the UAE Food Bank initiative.
Customers who want to give back something to society have to pay just Dh10 to contribute for one suspended meal.
The restaurant obtained a license from the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department to conduct the suspended meal programme. It has also tied up with Emirates Red Crescent and Ro’yati Family Society for the distribution of the meals at worker accommodations. The company is also backed by the Dubai Municipality and the Italian missions in the UAE, said Matteo.
During the first donation drive, Piadèra sponsored meals equal to the number of dishes its customers ordered on the inaugural day of the suspended meal programme.
The meal packets distributed in labour camps in Al Quoz contained a sandwich made of piadina authentic Italian flatbread, the signature item of the restaurant, mozzarella cheese and tomatoes as well as a bottle of water and an apple.
Mohammad Zafran, 29, a security guard from a Pakistan, and Iqrar Ahmed Khan, 37, a labourer from India were among the workers who received the meal packets distributed by Matteo and Chef Rubio along with the restaurant staff and volunteers from the charity groups.
They told Gulf News that it was the first time that the workers had tasted an Italian sandwich. “We have only had McDonald’s sandwich. This is something different and it tasted good,” said Zafran.
Matteo said each suspended meal is charged only Dh10, whereas the sandwiches for regular customers are priced higher because the ingredients differ. “We are also considering giving a separate discount for the customers who pay for a suspended meal. Our current license for the charity programme is for three months, which will end in August. We will request for an extension,” he added.