Not only is Thanksgiving a time to feast and come together with family, but it’s also a great time to gather with local community members at the Tavolino Community Meal.
Tavolino, 9 N. Shafer St., is having its 4th annual Community Meal on Thanksgiving Day, and all community members are welcome to enjoy free turkey and other thanksgiving pleasures.
Emily Christine Johnson, owner of Tavolino, said she started the event for people who don’t have a place to go for the holidays.
“Whenever you work somewhere, you have people that are like ‘Hey, if you don’t have anything for Thanksgiving, come to my house,’ and this is my house,” Johnson said. “So, I can just do that on a larger scale. I don’t want people to be alone for the holidays, and I want people to be fed, so we started doing it.”
Johnson said the turnout of community members at the community meal was becoming increasingly popular until the coronavirus pandemic halted indoor dining in 2020.
Having to adapt to the changes set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, Johnson started doing carryout Thanksgiving meals as a replacement.
“Last year, we didn’t have indoor dining, which broke my heart, because of COVID,” Johnson said. “We did carryout, and that was actually really awesome. It was hard to not have people in because I know some of the people that come don’t have a place to take it to eat it. And half of the reason I do Thanksgiving is to be around other people, so we were missing that.”
Despite the setbacks indoor seating posed, Tavolino gave out roughly 100 full Thanksgiving meals last year — the restaurant’s biggest turnout yet.
As COVID-19 restrictions have loosened since last year, Tavolino’s is excited to offer now both indoor seating and carryout. For indoor seating, social distancing will take place, and masks are required. Johnson is also planning on creating an outdoor seating space with the help of community donations.
Alongside equipment donations, Johnson is accepting food donations of all kinds for the community meal. So far, she has already acquired three Turkey donations. Donations can be made via calling or emailing Tavolino.
Served at the event will be traditional Thanksgiving food as well as some Italian staples from the Tavolino kitchen. Included in the menu will be traditional Italian focaccia bread and a plethora of soups, one of them being Ribollita, a vegan-friendly vegetable stew.
Willy Baker, a third-year studying environmental geology, is staying in Athens for the Thanksgiving holiday and is excited to participate in the community meal.
“I would be interested in going,” Baker said. “I like free food, and at least I get to see someone while nobody is here on campus.”
Students like Emily Sollmann, a junior studying English, are thrilled in general to eat Thanksgiving food over the next week.
“I’m excited about mashed potatoes and Hawaiian rolls,” Sollmann said.
Tavolino will have foods like these readily available for those who need it.
The Tavolino Community Meal is free for all and will take place on Thanksgiving Day between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Johnson encourages everybody to join in on the celebration.
“Just because you don’t need it to be free doesn’t mean it’s not nice to have something that you don’t have to pay for, that somebody wants you to have,” Johnson said. “They should come. They won’t regret it. They won’t have to eat turkey for the next week and a half. They won’t have to make up crazy recipes like turkey this, turkey that. They can just come and enjoy and not have to do dishes and relax and have a nice time.”