November 26, 2018

A Gourmet Thanksgiving at the Anaheim White House

What a wonderful day we enjoyed as we ventured up to Anaheim to enjoy a sumptuous three-course Thanksgiving meal at the elegant White House Restaurant!  In addition to the meal itself, we also enjoyed live music and a personal greeting from Bruno Serato, celebrity chef, philanthropist and owner of the restaurant.  This establishment’s patrons include U.S. Presidents, sports stars and celebrities.

The White House was built as a private home back in 1909 for the Waterman family, but eventually it was sold to Dr. Truax and his wife Louise who called it home for 50 years.  In 1981 Jim and Barbara Stovall purchased the home from the Truax family and plans were drawn up for the creation of the “The White House Restaurant.” A young (24 years old) Italian man by the name of Bruno Serato moved to the United States in 1980, speaking no English and with only $200 in his pocket, and worked as a bus boy at the White House. Through hard work and determination, Bruno worked his way up to owner of the restaurant in 1987. Serato launched the nonprofit Caterina’s Club in 2005 after he and his mother, Caterina, visited a local Boys and Girls Club where they saw a 7-year-old boy eating a bag of potato chips for dinner.  When she learned that the snack was all he had for dinner, she told her son to head back to the restaurant and feed the children pasta. Through Caterina’s Club, he has done so each day since and today feeds over 3,500 children daily in over 25 cities and 62 locations throughout Orange County. More than 2 million meals have been served so far. To accomplish their mission, the restaurant regularly hosts events and fundraisers that benefit the charity, including an annual “Pastathon” that generates tens of thousands of pounds of pasta and sauce to help feed the children.

Bruno has helped hundreds of needy families escape motel living by finding them apartments of their own and their lives have improved considerably. Many of the families he helps are working and able to pay the monthly rent for their own apartments, but they cannot afford the first, last and security deposit required at the onset. Bruno also operates Chef Bruno’s Hospitality Academy, which teaches local underprivileged youth how to prepare for a job in the hospitality industry.  Participants are introduced to careers in restaurants, hotels and other tourism related industries and offered hands-on training. The program has already graduated over 100 students. Serato has earned international publicity for his humanitarian work including coverage by People Magazine and CBS Evening News. He was also honored as a CNN Hero, knighted by the Italian government, received a papal blessing from Pope Francis and was inducted into the Restaurant Hall of Fame by the Distinguished Restaurants of North America. Chef Bruno has authored a few books including Temptation at the White House as well as his newest book entitled The Power of Pasta.

On February 4, 2017 the Anaheim White House suffered a devastating electrical fire, which destroyed 80% of the restaurant and caused over $2 million in damage. Among the most prized possessions of Bruno was a rosary given to him by Pope Francis, which was miraculously recovered from the ashes the day after the fire. Plans to rebuild commenced almost immediately, with donations and help from the local community and on May 8, 2018, the Anaheim restaurant re-opened to the public.

The restaurant is now a National Historical Landmark and is not only well known for its decadent food, outstanding service, and its philanthropic work. Chef Bruno has spoken to many large audiences about Caterina’s Club, in an effort to inspire people around the world to end world hunger.  His noteworthy speaking engagements include the United Nations as well as Vatican TV and several national conventions.  Today his influence extends far beyond Southern California with sister-city projects in locations including Chicago, New York, Texas, Mexico and Italy and in 2016 Ethiopia.   Definitely something to be proud of!

After our big Thanksgiving meal, we all appreciated the opportunity to get a little exercise while enjoying a little shopping at Downtown Disney, an outdoor mall adjacent to Disneyland.  The holiday decorations were beautiful and the mall has recently rebranded itself with some new stores, including Sprinkle’s Cupcakes, one of my favorite cupcake shops, featured on the Oprah show as one of her “favorite things.”  Delish! Disneyland was opened on July 18, 1955. Walt Disney came up with the concept of Disneyland after visiting various amusement parks with his daughters in the 1930s and 1940s.  He initially envisioned building a tourist attraction adjacent to his studios in Burbank, however he soon realized that the proposed site was too small, so he bought a 160-acre site near Anaheim covered with orange and walnut trees, some of which remain inside Disneyland property today.  Yet another interesting tidbit is that Disneyland also had the first monorail train system in the Western Hemisphere. In the late 1990s work began to expand the park which today includes well known attractions such as Disney’s California Adventure, Downtown Disney as well as several hotels. Today, the Disneyland complex attracts over 18 million people annually.

All too soon, it was time to return to San Diego, with many happy Thanksgiving memories to last a lifetime!


Mark Jacobson
DayTripper Tour Manager

Tour: Thanksgiving at the Anaheim White House
Date: November 22, 2018


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