Chef, 90, Cooks Tasty Hot Meals For Rome’s Homeless People

Working with a dedicated team of 300 volunteers, “Chef of the Poor”, Dino Impagliazzo, provides hearty dishes for his city’s homeless population.

Apr 26, 2020
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Chef, 90, Cooks Tasty Hot Meals For Rome’s Homeless People | Working with a dedicated team of 300 volunteers, “Chef of the Poor”, Dino Impagliazzo, provides hearty dishes for his city’s homeless population.

Three days a week, ninety-year-old retiree, Dino Impagliazzo, can be found chopping up vegetables for one of his famous meals.  Impagliazzo, however, is no ordinary chef, and the patrons are not typical restaurant-goers. 

That’s because all 800 meals that Impagliazzo and his crew of volunteers prepare each week, are donated to homeless people throughout Rome.  

Impagliazzo, the founder of the RomAmoR (Rome love) association, began cooking for the homeless fifteen years ago, from humble beginnings. He started out by making sandwiches from his home, and then moved on to hot meals as winter approached, preparing them in a convent. As the initiative grew, his organization eventually moved to a fully-equipped commercial kitchen.

The idea came to Impagliazzo when a homeless man at the Tuscolana train station in Rome asked him for money. He got to know the gentleman, and discovered that many homeless people in Rome struggled to find food on Sundays, when homeless associations were closed: "I realized that perhaps instead of buying one sandwich, making some sandwiches for him and for the friends who were there would be better, and thus began our adventure," Impagliazzo told Reuters.

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For nearly 15 years, Rome’s “chef of the poor” has spent his weekends collecting leftover food from market stalls and bakeries to prepare warm meals for the homeless. For four days a week, 90-year-old Dino Impagliazzo is joined by some 300 volunteers at his RomAmor (RomeLove) association to prepare between 800 to 1,000 meals of hot vegetable soup, sandwiches and desserts. The meals are personally hand-delivered to the homeless in various places in the city, mostly near train stations. Impagliazzo, who once worked for the country’s social security department, has received an honorific address from President Sergio Mattarella, recognising him as a “hero of our times.” There are around 7,700 homeless people living in the capital, according to Catholic charity Caritas. Photo: Remo Casilli/Reuters #Homeless #ChefofthePoor #Rome #Italy #HelpingHand #Inspiration #RomAmor

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From modest beginnings making sandwiches with a few other retired friends, Impagliazzo’s initiative has grown substantially. Volunteers can now be found cooking up a delicious feast on a regular basis. 

Three days a week, he works alongside 300 volunteers of all ages and backgrounds, and volunteers continue the work throughout the week. In fact, welcoming volunteers to join the activities is an important part of RomAmoR’s mission: “We try to involve more and more people so that Rome becomes a city where people can love each other, you know?” says Impagliazzo.

Impagliazzo gathers ingredients from food banks as well as from Rome’s markets, bakeries, and grocery stores. Staff greet him warmly and are always happy to contribute to his mission. The organization also engages local food distributors, inviting them to be part of the growing community. “It’s solidarity” explains Impagliazzo simply.

Building an inclusive, holistic, and community-based model is an important part of RomAmoR’s work, which is why the organization has also set up a weekly stand in St. Peter’s Square, alongside medical and bathing facilities opened by Pope Francis. RomeAmoR also distributes clothing, and sends volunteers out into the community to identify the most pressing needs of the vulnerable people it serves.

Even during the current pandemic, RomAmorR continues to help its target community in line with safety directives.

Impagliazzo’s altruism has earned him the title of Rome’s “chef of the poor”. He has also received an award from Italian President, Sergio Matterella, who declared Impagliazzo a “hero of our times”!

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Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.
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