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What Hospitality Really Means During the Holidays

One BentoBox staffer who grew up in the restaurant business shares a holiday memory about the true spirit of hospitality

A image of plants.

As told by Daniela Momo

Hospitality comes first in the restaurant industry, and it drives everything we do here at BentoBox, too. We’re proud to give some of the most accomplished restaurateurs in the world, as well as family businesses who know the names of all their regulars, the tools they need to bring hospitality to life in the digital space.

The holiday season, in particular, is a great time to reflect on the true spirit of hospitality, and the role that restaurants play in creating a sense of community. For those without family nearby, a restaurant can truly become a second home. Here, one BentoBox staffer who grew up in the restaurant business shares a personal memory of what hospitality over the holidays means to her.

A snowy city street.

"Luca’s* not in tonight?"

Those were the overly concerned words my father asked as he sat down at the Christmas Eve dinner table at one of my father’s restaurants. I gazed up and saw my father’s eyes darting from one table to the next. He was right—Luca wasn’t at work that night.

My father took a deep breath as he got up to speak with the general manager. My heart sunk a little as I saw the same concern cross the manager’s face. I knew that Luca had never missed a shift—he would often show up even on his days off. He liked to mingle with guests, charming them with his unmistakable Italian accent, surprising them with amuse-bouches, and remembering the tiniest details about their preferences. He entertained the staff with rambling anecdotes and constantly assisted everyone—it didn’t matter if it was the busboy, the chef, or the manager—no task was too small. To Luca, being a Maitre D’ wasn’t just his job—it was his passion.

a tree with snow on the side of the road

In a matter of minutes, my family was in the car, hot soup and Christmas card in hand, heading to Luca’s house. I waited in the car while my parents went in, and a few minutes later, my stepmother emerged, teary-eyed, reporting that Luca was very frail.

I struggled to picture the lively, restless 75-year old, who walked to work every morning and offered so much vibrancy to the restaurant, as weak. My chest felt heavy knowing that he’d left his family in Italy when he moved the States. Sadness continued to weigh on me as I tried to push the thought of Luca spending the holiday season alone.

a tree branch on snow.

In that moment, I realized that Luca had never spent a holiday alone, despite his family being overseas and his recent illness. The restaurant was his family. He had dedicated his entire life to the restaurant, which dedicated itself back to him. Luca was an integral part of the restaurant’s community, and when it came time, that community rallied around him, being there and attending to his needs.

That’s why, despite having several restaurants and over 200 employees on the payroll, my father went to visit Luca that Christmas Eve. That’s why, despite setting aside time for his family during the busiest season, my father made room for Luca that evening. That’s why, despite all the other excuses my father could have come up with as the owner of a restaurant group, in charge of hundreds of intricate details, he took care of Luca that night. And that’s why there is so much beauty in hospitality—you don’t have to worry about taking care of yourself, because everyone takes care of each other.

*Names have been changed for privacy

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