Head chef and co-owner of the Meatball Stoppe, Isabella Morgia always refers to her restaurant as home. As of Jan 23, Morgia’s ‘home’ began offering special accommodations to provide dementia friendly dining.
“We want families going through this to feel comfortable dining with us,” Morgia said.
Located on 7325 Lake Underhill Road, Orlando, the family owned restaurant boasts a strong reputation in the Orlando area for its charm and traditional Italian food.
Deeply rooted in Italian heritage, the Stoppe family incorporates traditions throughout the restaurant. Morgia grew up in the restaurant business as her parents and family once owned and operated six traditional Italian restaurants in Orlando. Every recipe on the Meatball Stoppe menu comes from her family recipes and family photos line the walls.
“We didn’t want to be the same Italian restaurant; we wanted to be unique, while still holding true to our values,” Morgia said.
To achieve this uniqueness, the Stoppe family emphasizes the feeling of coming home to an Italian meal made by one’s “Nonna” (The Italian term for grandma). The head chef comes out to greet and hug customers like old friends and the staff works to make them feel at home. Food made from family recipes adds to the atmosphere. Ensuring safety and comfort for victims of dementia proved the next step in providing a unique and inviting dining experience for all.
The Meatball Stoppe began offering Dementia friendly dining from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m Jan 23 and every Thursday after.
An Alzheimer’s research center trained Morgia and her staff to recognize and respond to the triggers a victim of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia may experience. The staff also learned how to assist in feeding people and ensure the environment they eat in stays calm and inviting through the use of a private dining room.
“Even if we hadn’t been trained, if someone with dementia came to the restaurant we would care for them because we know how to from experience,” Morgia said.
For Morgia and the rest of the Stoppe family, the pain that Dementia causes hits close to home. Morgia lost two close family members to the disease and two more of her family members currently struggle with it.
“We know exactly what it’s like to have a family member affected by dementia. These people who were alive and vibrant… just gone. It’s terrible,” Morgia said.
Despite knowing the loss and damaging effects of dementia, the family maintains a warm atmosphere and nostalgic family dining experience.
“We do our best to transport [customers] to a place in time that puts a smile on their face,” Morgia said.