Owner Daniele Mastagni walks into Trattoria Luna’s dining room carrying folders and a binder filled with donation requests, brochures and thank you letters.
Over the past 13 and a half years, he’s been donating mostly gift certificates to causes that he and his customers are passionate about. Soon, he’ll host the restaurant’s first charity lunch with a longtime customer, Ransom Everglades senior David Lanster, and his girlfriend, Kelly Moran.
“It’s hard to say yes to everybody but at the same time it’s hard to say no,” he said. Mastagni donates to local schools, synagogues and organizations, including the Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment, the Tropical Audubon Society and Special Olympics fundraisers. The restaurant also participates in Taste of Pinecrest, a community festival that benefits local public schools.
“Most are customers who frequent the restaurant,” he said.
Mastagni, who grew up on Lake Garda in a small town in Northern Italy, considers himself lucky that he has worked in an industry he’s passionate about. After his dad passed away when he was 12, his mother had to provide for their family. Mastagni attended a good public hotel management school not too far from home.
After working all over Europe — in Germany, Switzerland and England — and in the Cayman Islands, he moved to the U.S. He opened Trattoria Luna with his partner, chef Uriel Moreno, about 14 years ago. Since then, it’s become a neighborhood Pinecrest staple.
“(We) try to balance the classic with some of the newer dishes,” Mastagni said. “No employee has been here for less than 10 years,” he said. “In Miami, you have a million restaurants. The competition is there. Sometimes, it’s difficult to keep the pace. We stick to our style of food.”
Mastagni said that he feeds off the energy of his customers, customers like David Lanster, who shares his passion of cooking.
The Lansters have been dining at Trattoria Luna since David can remember. They usually sit at the same table, tucked away behind a half wall near the restaurant’s entrance. It’s the same table Mastagni sat when he dined at the restaurant for the first time. A few months ago, David’s dad showed Mastagni the meals David and Kelly had been preparing for their parents’ friends.
“This is stuff you see on the Food Network. It blew my mind the way he designs dishes,” he said.
David and Kelly, both 18, started donating the proceeds from their elaborate dinners to charity. Their parents’ friends often would give the two budding chefs thank you gifts for their dinners.
“We find it a lot more meaningful. It just seemed excessive, and it didn’t seem right that we were getting so much,” David said.
Mastagni invited David to cook with him, which is what eventually turned into a charity lunch set for mid-to-late January.
“I took him to the kitchen a couple of times, but he kept asking (to go back). He was more interested in the ingredients — in everything,” Mastagni said. “I told him, ‘I would love to have you at the restaurant to cook with us. I like what you’re doing; I want to support you.’”
Although David and Kelly have been hosting dinners at their homes, they can only cook for 12 people. A restaurant kitchen will allow them to cook on a larger scale.
The couple is leaning toward donating the proceeds from the luncheon to Common Threads, an organization that teaches underserved children how to cook and eat healthy. They volunteered at the nonprofit’s summer camp in Miami this year.
“It’s a cause that he believes in and I believe in. I wish we had more organizations that would help kids,” Mastagni said. “For those kids who are less fortunate, at least we can show them.”
If you go
For more information on the charity lunch, contact the restaurant after the holidays or visit www.trattorialuna.com. Trattoria Luna is located at 9477 S. Dixie Hwy. in Pinecrest.