LEE COUNTY, Fla. - While many restaurants look to thanksgiving as one of the busiest and most profitable days of the year, some are closing, and opening their doors to people in need. Owners say the community has done so much for them. Now, they want to give back.
The smell of thanksgiving wafts through Cafe Pignoli in Cape Coral as executive chefs prep to feed hundreds. "Approximately about 440 pounds of turkey, about 120 pounds of ham, we cooked over 100 pounds of sweet potato, 100 pounds of russet potatoes," Executive Chef Robert Cardoos said, describing his menu.
...Not to mention, 75 pounds of corn, 80 pounds of stuffing, 12 gallons of gravy and 35 pies. They're among several restaurants thankful for a prosperous year, welcoming those less fortunate free of charge.
"We are going to offer free thanksgiving dinner to all comers until we run out of food," Roger DiCicco, owner of Red Rock Saloon said.
Red Rock in Fort Myers is cooking up a gourmet holiday dinner as employees volunteer their time. "I see a lot of people very far away from their families, I see a lot of people that are less fortunate," DiCicco said. "I just want to give them a place to go to enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving."
And Longhorn Steakhouse in South Fort Myers will swap the filets and T-bones, for drum sticks and sweet potatoes. "We live here, it's sort of like they support us, you support them," Managing Partner Stephen King said.
Government figures show 17 million U.S. households struggled to provide food for their families at some point this year, many, formerly middle class who have fallen on hard times. And 42 million Americans, or 1 in 8, use food stamps. At least for one day, no payment is necessary.
"I want everyone to experience this meal as if they came over to my house and I was preparing it for my family," Cafe Pignoli Executive Chef Janet Rinehart said.
-Cafe Pignoli will serve from noon to 3 in the pavilion at Cape Harbour Marina.
-Longhorn Steakhouse starts at 12:30 p.m., but reservations are required through United Way.
-Red Rock Saloon starts serving at 3:30 p.m.
Red Rock will also collect canned and dry food items to donate to the Harry Chapin Food Bank.