Rita Lupatelli: Soul Food


by Bonnie Brandes

Hot steam rises as Rita Lupatelli hovers over her monster shiny-metal pot, perfecting her homemade sauce.  She carefully stirs the red sauce with a wooden spoon the size of her forearm. Rita's crisp, snow-white hat cuddles her curly-brown hair as she glides across the kitchen, moving between cutting boards, freezers, stovetops, ovens and blenders. Her colossal gas stove is covered with various-sized pots.

Rita’s task is daunting. For the last 11 years, she has been the head chef at the local Ospedale ‘A. Celli’    (Antonio Celli Hospital). In addition to managing a team, Rita works with dieticians to provide nutritious meals for the patients. Her menu changes weekly. She nurtures approximately 250 hospital patients and staff with homemade meals, and she offers each person multiple options for all three courses.  Rita helping to deliver food in hospital

Each morning, Rita first prepares “meals on wheels” for hospitals in nearby Mondavio and Fossombrone that cannot cook for their patients. Constant streams of people who demand Rita’s attention visit the hospital kitchen throughout the day.  First to arrive is the young delivery boy who will whisk away Rita’s meals to the surrounding communities.  While cooking inspires Rita, her real passion comes from her ability to help others. 

Her “meals on wheels” must be prepared, packaged and delivered by lunchtime. As the delivery truck sputters away, Rita looks gratified. She doesn’t have a spare moment before turning her focus to a new task, lunch for the Cagli patients and doctors at the hospital. The cooking process repeats from the beginning. Hospital staff carefully pack their metal carts to deliver the patients’ lunches. In the late afternoon, the cafeteria opens to doctors.  Without recess, the kitchen bustles from early morning to late afternoon.

QuoteRita is native to Cagli. As she reflects on her life here, she acknowledges the town’s small size can be limiting. But she considers the people of Cagli a warm and welcoming family. Prior to working as head chef at the hospital, she spent seven years as the chef at the local monastery. Rita, who is divorced, smiles broadly and her soft brown eyes sparkle as she speaks of the joys of her life, her two children, Alessandro, 27, and Elisa, 21.

As she bustles happily about her hospital kitchen, Rita demonstrates her love for what she does. She greets everyone with a smile and a warm meal. In return she receives loud praise, big hugs and broad smiles.  Her laughter is contagious.

“It is relaxing for me to cook,” she says. “I especially like to cook for friends.” Rita kneads her love into the meals that she creates.  She serves her hospital community six days a week, working on average 10 to 12 hour days, she says.  In her spare time, she enjoys just relaxing.

While rumors swirl about the uncertain future of the Cagli’s Ospedale ‘A. Celli’, Rita is confident that she will continue working at a job she loves.  Her one rhinestone cherry earring dazzles as she reflects on her future. “I hope that nothing will change in my life so I can continue help others,” she says. 

Rita has found her calling, feeding the body and soul by cooking and caring for those who can’t care for themselves.




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To find out more information about how
you can participate or support the Cagli project, contact:

Name: Shannon Zaranski
Phone:+1 509 - 313 - 3569
Email: zaranski@gonzaga.edu
Director: Dr. John Caputo
E-mail: caputo@gonzaga.edu