Person of the Week
Francesco Lulaj Delivers Food Seasoned with Kindness
With the help of his chefs, family members, and friends, Francesco Lulaj, owner of La Foresta Restaurant & Wine Bar, cooked and delivered meals to feed 600 members of a 55-plus community in Killingworth. Photo from Francesco Lulaj )
Francesco Lulaj’s food shopping list was not for a typical household: 200 pounds of pasta, 150 pounds of meatballs, and 25 gallons of pomodoro sauce.
Add two large containers of romaine hearts, two cases of cherry tomatoes, and other mixed greens and he’s got enough to make meals to feed the 600 residents of a 55-plus adult community in Killingworth.
The meals were distributed in early April.
“The packages we delivered consisted of pasta with homemade meatballs and salads for two people,” Francesco explains.
He and his team made a total of 300 packages.
As owner of La Foresta Restaurant & Wine Bar in Killingworth, Francesco is not new to the pressures of the work involved in serving meals for a crowd. But even for him, cooking for 600 was a challenging task.
“It took my chefs and I eight hours to prepare, cook, and package the food,” he says.
Francesco also took charge of distributing the meals. He was helped by friends and family members, knocking on each door and chatting with the elderly from a safe distance to give them some form of social contact even as the COVID-19 outbreak compels them to stay home.
“With the help of good family friends, my brother Mario, and my son Sebastian, we delivered food door-to-door for four hours,” he says.
It was the latest act of generosity by this restaurateur with a soft heart for the seniors in his community and a desire to help out in these weeks of COVID-19.
“I believe that the elderly demographic of citizens is most at risk during this pandemic and often forgotten,” he says, adding that he hopes to “continue to make donations on a regular basis to our elderly community during this crisis.”
Francesco, the Republican candidate for first selectman in 2019, has also donated to other causes. For the past six years, he has been donating quarterly dinners for more than 50 volunteers of the Killingworth Fire Department. His last donation was also done in early April.
In addition, he donates to local churches, Parmelee Farm, and Killingworth Elementary School.
Dedicated to Work and Family
Francesco has lived in Killingworth for 10 years and has owned La Foresta for six. Like most restaurants, La Foresta has temporarily halted dine-in service but continues to serve the public by providing its dinner menu for take-out orders and curbside delivery daily from 3 to 8 p.m.
Francesco speaks of the restaurant with pride.
“I am a wine collector and I’m very proud to say that La Foresta has the largest wine list in the state of Connecticut and one of the best restaurant wine lists worldwide,” he says.
According to its website, the restaurant has a wine list of more than 1,600 selections and more than 10,000 total bottles.
La Foresta serves traditional and unique Italian dishes using fresh ingredients from local sources whenever possible.
Francesco has had 20 years of experience learning the restaurant business.
“In Italy, I worked at a restaurant in Rome, also called La Foresta, as a busboy,” he recalls. “In New York City, I worked for well-known restaurants in the Manhattan area as a busboy and a waiter. In Connecticut, I was a co-owner of Adriana’s Restaurant in New Haven.”
He admits that the demands of the job don’t faze him, and he finds the social interactions from serving his clients appealing.
“I chose the restaurant business because I love working with people. In this business I interact with all different types of people from all around the world. It is very touching to hear their stories and to share mine with them,” he says. “I am also someone who can never stay still and am constantly looking for ways to challenge and better myself. This business allows me to do so.”
Although the business involves long hours, Francesco makes as much time as he can to spend with Cassandra, his wife of 13 years, and their four young sons.
“I enjoy a much-needed vacation when I’m able to be with my family. Most recently, we visited the Riviera Maya in Mexico along with my sister, her husband, and their two boys,” he says.
Indeed, Francesco keeps his moral compass intact regardless of how busy his days may be.
He describes himself as religious and leans on his family and faith in times of difficulty. He also says that despite the challenges brought by the pandemic, he appreciates the opportunity to reach out to the community.
“Although I have been very blessed with a successful business and the means to have some of the finer things in life, at the end of the day what really matters is people and my faith,” he says.
“As humans, we now realize just how vulnerable we are and just how precious life is. All too often, we get consumed in the chaos of our day-to-day lives and forget the simple things in life like just taking the time to have a conversation with people and helping the ones in need.”
For more information about La Foresta, visit www.laforestarestaurant.com.
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