Several chefs put their products secondary to the underlying theme of raising awareness for individuals with intellectual disabilities at this past Sunday’s Pier del Sol fundraiser in Santa Monica.
That’s because a handful have been directly impacted by family members directly involved with Special Olympics.
Joseph Pitruzzelli, a chef at Wurstkuche, works alongside his brother, Stefan. They were among 32 restaurants in attendance, serving guests on the Santa Monica Pier.
The restaurant, which specializes in bratwurst and other exotic, grilled sausages, was making its first appearance at Pier del Sol.
“It’s awesome,” said Stefan, a lifelong athlete from Santa Barbara who enjoys basketball and volleyball. He added that the positive impact has boosted his confidence, while teaching sports skills and learning alongside his friends.
“I go to a lot of the athletes’ events,” added Joseph. “We’re always trying to figure out a way to get involved, and I think this is the best way for us because we love making food. It’s really rewarding to see the athletes and their big supporters.
“This couldn’t be better. It’s a beautiful day on the Pier.”
Pier del Sol, in its 21st year, also included a number of longtime vendors. Providence’s husband-and-wife tandem of Michael Cimarusti and Crisi Echiverri attended their 13th year.
Echiverri’s son volunteered for the day and her sister used to participate with Special Olympics. She also recalled her early volunteer days as “a hugger” when she was in high school.
“It still makes me cry thinking about it,” Echiverri said, her voice cracking. “I had a woman who ran to me with her arms open the whole time for the hug. There’s nothing that touches you more, makes you feel so involved and happy.”
Chef Shane Hosac of globally-inspired restaurant Mari has three uncles with intellectual disabilities, and one competed as an athlete in Pittsburgh.
In his second year at the event, Hosac said he’s always willing to “support the cause” and advocate for Special Olympics athletes.
“We’re all the same,” he said. “They deserve the same things that we do, people who aren’t special needs.
“I see it from my uncle, Bruce. He gets so much joy and excitement from doing Special Olympics.”
Missed Pier del Sol?
Allow Special Olympics Southern California athlete and Global Messenger Caley Versfelt to catch you up through a series of Facebook Live videos.
She walked through the pier to interview a number of chefs and get a taste of what they were serving the attendees.
Thank you, sponsors
Pier del Sol couldn’t happen without the support and generosity of our sponsors:
Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP
Game booth sponsors
Alberson Herron Halpern
Anita Green & Family
The Cecile & Fred Bartman Foundation
City National Bank
J.S. Rosenfield & Co.
Latham & Watkins LLP
Mattel Children’s Foundation
Santa Monica Police Department
Santa Monica Travel & Tourism
The Wonderful Company
Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.
Green Hasson Janks
Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt LLP
Park & Velayos
Ricardina Leon & John C. Liu
Variety the Children’s Charity of Southern California
Ying Enterprises/Angela Fu
Inside the SOSC is a blog written by staff member Tracy McDannald. It is a more feature-style approach to looking inside what makes Special Olympics Southern California so unique, so special. It is meant to explore the people and their stories. One word at a time.