As the partial government shutdown approaches the one-month mark, members of one branch of the military are feeling its effects particularly hard: the Coast Guard. Here, in coastal Southwest Florida, one family-owned establishment is helping those in need.
LaMotta’s Italian Restaurant has become a multi-generational staple for Fort Myers natives and visitors alike.
“Being here 40 years, we’ve never seen it this bad, and I’ve been through hurricanes. I’ve been through housing markets, the stock market crash," Carmelo LaMotta said. "But, the red tide and the algae bloom this year was the worst that’s ever happened. It was the first time that I was scared that I wasn’t going to make it.”
But, make it they did, which LaMotta’s chef and owner credits to the local community and Coast Guard members who were there during the lean red tide months. He spoke on the phone from his hospital bed where, even in the middle of recovering from a medical procedure, he was concerned about giving back to the community that, he said, had always given to him.
Earlier in the week, LaMotta made a Facebook post announcing that the restaurant would be giving free meals to members of the Coast Guard, as they are the only military branch that has been furloughed during the partial government shutdown.
“When we saw this happening, I couldn’t believe it," LaMotta said. "They’re the ones out there patrolling our waterways to be sure that we’re safe, and here, they’re going to work and not getting a paycheck.”
So, the LaMotta family decided to do what it could by offering members of the Coast Guard – and the TSA – free meals for as long as the shutdown lasts.
At the restaurant, LaMotta’s father, Sal, is ready to greet any and every one with open arms.
“They want to come? Come. I offer, I open my doors," Sal LaMotta said. "If they want to come, the door is open, and the table is waiting.”