Venice Italian Eatery to serve turkey for free

PITMAN Last year, Venice Italian Eatery here served a free, traditional Thanksgiving dinner to more than 450 people, and this year owner Ron Zold has set the bar even higher.

“I think we can do at least 600,” said Zold. “We’ll have people in for our three seatings at 12:30, 2 and 3:30 p.m., and we’ll also do deliveries. Last year, we delivered to Clayton, Mullica Hill, Pine Hill and even Hammonton.”

Again this year, Venice will serve free dinners of turkey, pasta, soup, salad, homemade bread and pumpkin pie to any individual or family in need. Zold said he wants to help as many people as possible, even if that means serving them pasta and meatballs if the turkey runs out.

“We’re in need of volunteers, any kind of volunteer can help us,” said Zold. “People can help us prepare the night before, help to cook and serve food on Thanksgiving or be drivers for deliveries.”

Zold said that, even though a tough economy has hit Venice as hard as other local businesses, there was never a question of not holding the event.

“Last year, we made Thanksgiving a really good day for people who would’ve otherwise had a terrible day,” said Zold. “When you’re here and see the people this touches, it’s amazing. Last year couldn’t wait for this Thanksgiving to come.”

Zold said he imagines that even more families and individuals are in need this year as the unemployment problem persists.

“This year, we put out a donation jar, which we didn’t do last year even though people gave them to us,” said Zold. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it, but everything helps. We’d be happy, especially, to get more turkeys.”

Zold estimates he will need between 300 and 400 pounds of the holiday bird to feed his guests and recipients.

“You know there are people out there hurting, but until you see it, you don’t realize how much,” said Zold. “I want to keep this going as long as I’m alive. We had a great response last year from customers and volunteers we actually had too many volunteers.”

Zold said that, last year, those volunteers ranged from a 10-year-old boy to a 93-year-old minister, many of whom stayed all day long. The team inside the restaurant formed a kind of assembly line to move the turkey, side dishes and desserts out to the diners in a timely fashion. Others drove from town to town dropping off meals to families at home.

“It was a pretty neat experience and everything went smoothly last year,” said Zold. “We’re all looking forward to another great day.”

To volunteer or to make a reservation for the free Thanksgiving feast, contact Venice at (856) 582-0770. Zold also encourages local organizations to reach out to the restaurant to arrange meals and deliveries.

Click here for the original article @ The Gloucester County Times
Online edition of Gloucester’s daily newspaper
Sunday, November 07, 2010
By Jessica Driscoll
jdriscoll@sjnewsco.com