With Love & Gratitude: La Jolla restaurant brings dinner to hospital workers

La Jolla’s Café Milano manager Marko Pavlinovic (left) helps delivers 40 meals April 16 to staff at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Café Milano staff wanted to alleviate hospital worker hunger, so they served up pasta dinners and a side of laughter at a local hospital last week.

The idea came from Marko Pavlinovic, manager of Café Milano (711 Pearl St.) and his desire to help emergency healthcare providers.

“My family lives in Italy now, and I think it’s good to do something like this. These people are working hard,” he told the Light. “So I talked with (restaurant owner) Pascual Cianni and we called John. We wanted to bring them something to make them happy.”

John is longtime La Jolla resident John Johnson, a radiologist at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest, who has been patronizing Café Milano since it opened 25 years ago and has become friends with Cianni and Pavlinovic. When Pavlinovic reached out with his idea to feed the frontline staff, Johnson connected him with Scripps Mercy emergency room chief Dr. Marcus Wang, and they worked out the best day and time for a Café Milano meal delivery.

Johnson recalled Wang was “excited about the donation and said the meals would be gratefully welcomed.”

“We all need a good story right now,” Johnson continued. “I’m just the facilitator; this is really about Pascual and Marko and how they’re helping the frontline hospital workers who are risking their lives.”

Marko Pavlinovic following a joyful job well done
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Pavlinovic and Cianni, along with the Café Milano team, prepared 40 individually wrapped, safely-prepared meals of either Penne Bolognese or Penne Vodka. Pavlinovic then loaded the entrees onto Café Milano’s catering truck, which happens to be a retired and refurbished ambulance named “Cruising for a Bruising.”

Pavlinovic arrived at the emergency room decked out in an Italian chef’s hat, wailing about his “patient, the Penne Vodka!” and giving the dinner recipients a moment of levity along with their Milanese fare.

“I’m a little bit of an entertaining guy,” Pavlinovic said. “And I just wanted to cheer them up. It’s not much.”

The repurposed ambulance and its deliveries were met with resounding approval. ER staff greeted the musical food truck and its multi-colored lights with cheers and applause, gratefully taking the meals inside to enjoy with glee.

For Pavlinovic, the donation was a tiny contribution against the much larger effort put forth by the doctors and nurses he served.

“Café Milano is really happy that we have been given the opportunity to show our love for the hard-working nurses and doctors who put themselves at risk so we can remain safe and healthy.”