Chef to serve up festive dinner for lonely people

Hayley and Rio
Hayley and Rio
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An Italian restaurant will be opening its doors on Christmas Day for elderly people in the Deepings who would otherwise be spending the day alone.

Toni Grossi, one of the owners of Tonino’s in Church Street, Market Deeping, will be swapping the pasta and pizza he usually serves for a traditional three-course festive dinner.

And he is welcoming elderly people, over the age of 65, from the Deepings and surrounding villages, who would be alone on the day to join in.

When his business partner Hayley Grossi recently served an elderly gentlemen who asked if the restaurant welcomed “Billy no mates” to dine there, she was given the idea. And when she suggested it to Toni, he was more than happy to give it a go.

Hayley said: “Toni has no Christmas spirit at all on Christmas Day and we just thought this would be the perfect way to give something back.”

In his native village near Rome, Toni would normally celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve with a sumptuous 24-course meal served over 12 hours, including dry cod known as baccalia.

But as the Market Deeping restaurant usually stays open until Christmas Eve, Toni doesn’t usually go back to Italy to spend the festive period with his extended family.

This year, he will be helped by a small team with his efforts and already Hayley and Toni have been inundated with people willing to help. Tesco, of Market Deeping, is donating the vegetables while a turkey has also been donated.

And one of the restaurant’s youngest regular diners, 11-year-old Rio Brisbane, who lives in the Deepings, has offered to wrap a special gift for each diner and make shortbread.

Hayley said: “We’ve been really taken aback by the amount of people offering to help us and we just hope it will be taken up by people.

“We just want to give something back to the community.”

The restaurant has been open for 17 years and regularly helps the Three Hills Action Trust charity, which Hayley is a trustee of, and has also contributed to other community initiatives.

But this is the first time, they have put their cooking talents to good use on Christmas Day.

The starter will be a homemade cream of mushroom soup or prawn cocktail, followed by traditional roast turkey or roast beef with all the trimmings and then Christmas pudding or Panettone bread and butter pudding.

To register an interest in attending, speak to Hayley or Toni at Tonino’s in the restaurant or call 01778 344111.