It is definitely well-known the beautiful tradition born in Naples and then spread in other cities in Italy and worldwide: the “pending coffee” tradition.


What is this tradition? In Naples, it is custom to have a coffee at the bar and to pay for 2 when, for example, you had a good start of the day or to celebrate something or only for solidarity. In this way, those who cannot afford to have a coffee at the bar, have it offered by someone. Even today, the pending coffees are drawn on a little whiteboard. Obviously, there is not a selection of those who ask for it. It is a coffee offered to humanity. From time to time, someone peeps from the door and asks if “a pending coffee” is available and, often, those who offer it receives a smile back.


The practice of the pending coffee has also been tried in some of the bars in Bulgaria, Ireland, Spain, France, Belgium, Greece, Argentina, Finland.


According to Riccardo Pazzaglia – Italian journalist and actor, born in Naples – this tradition was born because of the discussions that happened when you were at the bar with friends and it was time to pay.


Now, before coffee, let’s add a place at the table for those who have never been invited.
This initiative – which currently involves only the city of Milan but, hopefully, it will soon expand to other Italian towns – was inspired by the theme of Expo 2015 “Feeding the planet” and it allows everyone to provide their contribution, reminding us of those who are not at our table.


Going in one of the restaurants that joined the initiative – a network of solidarity restaurants promoted by Caritas Ambrosiana, Comune di Milano and professional associations – you can offer a meal to those who cannot pay for it. With a simple gesture, your offer of any amount will contribute to the purchase of supportive meal tickets of the value of 10 euros.


Caritas Ambrosiana counselling centers will take care of distributing the meal tickets to those who need help. Those who will receive them can use them in restaurants and cafes in Milan like any other client. In this way, together, we can help with dignity families and people in need in Milan.


Once you finish your dinner in one of the restaurants that joined the initiative, you can use the envelop you find on your table. When the waiter passes to pick up the money, he will deposit it in the special urn available in the restaurant. Caritas Ambrosiana will collect the envelopes and convert them into “pending dinner” meal tickets.


The 171 Caritas counselling centers of Milan will distribute the offers converted into “pending dinners” to families as tool that contributes, with others, to overcome a difficult moment. To determine the number of meal tickets and the delivery frequency, the counselling center will assess the socio-economic situation, the number of depending children, the status of unemployment of the active family members and what they are doing to find a job, the activation of the network of local services.


The restaurants involved are currently 23 and they are all in Milan, but we hope the number increases; it would be desirable that this becomes a good solidarity practice.


The Neapolitan tradition of the pending coffee – a sign of vitality and ability to create links between citizens – was here transformed into an act of charity by the contributions of different city players. But this project will not be successful if the citizens of Milan don’t do their part: they will be the ones who set in motion the solidarity machine that institutions and other operators have fine-tuned with the “pending dinner”.


Laura Parodi