Restaurateur says "how I can stop?" charity despite own hard times

Restaurant owner gives away thousands of free meals

While most restaurants in America are shuttered, this one is hammered. In fact, Bruno Serato is feeding more people today than ever before.

Twice a week in Anaheim, California, the cars line up by the hundreds. And although his fine dining now has all the ambiance of a NASCAR pit stop, you can't beat Bruno's prices. Just a simple thank you, which is all many of these people can afford. 

As one driver said, these meals mean "we can survive another day — that we can live another day longer." 

Bruno is catering to the growing legions of the desperate, a mission for which he is very well suited. 

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Families at Bruno Serato's restaurant CBS News

"It breaks my heart," Bruno said. 

I first met Bruno 10 years ago, in the aftermath of the recession. His White House restaurant was struggling, but here he was, giving away free, fancy dinners to kids at the local Boys and Girls Club every night. 

I came back years later after fire destroyed the original restaurant and put his charity work in jeopardy. Bruno was devastated, but back to feeding the kids within the week. He even expanded his efforts. 

And then came coronavirus

"Enough is enough," Bruno said.  

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Bruno Serato  CBS News

Unfortunately, all those years of charity have left him deep in debt. Did he get a loan? 

"I don't know yet," Bruno said. "I'm just praying that sooner or later we'll get something." 

Could he close the restaurant? 

"If I had to have the choice, you can save the restaurant or you can save the charity, no doubt about it, I would take the charity first," Bruno said. 

He may end up in the food line himself then.

"How can I stop?"  Bruno answered. 

And that's always been his response. During the recession, after the fire and today. 

It's just a constant theme with this guy — the more that is taken from him — the more he gives away.

This month, with the help of volunteers and sponsors, Bruno will donate more than 300,000 meals. And if this crisis is anything like the others, he will somehow emerge, brighter than ever. 

"Next time you will have to interview me when I'm on top of the statue of Liberty with the American flag!" Bruno said. 

Can't wait. 

"Hallelujah!" 


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  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.