Don Giovanni's Prepares for its Thanksgiving Feast

For 15 years, the Castro Street restaurant opens its doors to all who want a warm holiday meal.

One hundred turkeys. That's how many will be eaten at on Thanksgiving Day.

The popular Mountain View restaurant will host the 15th annual Thanksgiving dinner at its downtown location on Thursday and feed nearly 1,500 people between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Owner John Akkaya began this tradition 22 years ago at his other restaurant Figaro in Burlingame as a way to give back to the communities he works in and everyone's welcomed he says.

"God bless America," said Akkaya, an immigrant from Turkey. "This country gave me two daughters and a great job. I'm very fortunate that I can do this."

For the traditional sit-down Thanksgiving meal of stuffing, yams, sweet potatoes, mash potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce and bread, in addition to the 100, 20-22 pound turkeys, Akkaya's ordered 67 cases of potatoes and 40 cases of an assortment of fruits. In 2010, they ran out of food ten minutes before they closed.

Akkaya thinks the event "gets better and better" each year.

For several years now, seniors have also made serving the Thanksgiving meal a tradition, according to Mike Speckman, who coordinates this effort and also works as SFHS' director of admissions.

About 30 students and faculty members volunteer each year setting up tables, bringing the meals out and clearing up.

"Our students look forward to volunteering here," said Speckman, who also enjoys exchanging stories with Akkaya about his family and where SFHS students have gone after high school.

Customer and friend Brian Clarke has attended every Thanksgiving meal at Don Giovanni's. He now volunteers as the official photographer and snaps pictures of how the line winds around the corner of Castro and Villa Streets.

"This was one of my first Thanksgivings in America," said Clarke, a British immigrant who had no family when he first moved to the area for work. "I think it's a great thing that they do this with the local school. It's a great atmosphere  and it's a really good dinner."

To Akkaya, it doesn't matter if you are homeless or rich—anyone can stop in and eat on Thanksgiving.

He remembers that as a child in Turkey his father would always feed strangers and when Akkaya asked why, his father said because if you have you should share.

"We human beings should learn to share what we have," Akkaya said, "and the things we don't have we should work for it."

Ray Morneau November 24, 2011 at 02:41 PM
THANK YOU!!! Thank you, Don Giovanni's with Messrs. Akkaya, Clarke, Specman, and the Saint Francis HS seniors & faculty! Model citizens! You show us the human aspect of Thanksgiving! Thx.
Ellen Wheeler November 24, 2011 at 06:15 PM
This is the true spirit of Thanksgiving. Thank you, owner John, for starting and continuing this tradition. You are admirably generous!
Monica November 24, 2011 at 07:28 PM
We're looking forward to dinner there... just after we finish watching the Thanksgiving Day parade. It will my third (and possibly last) year so we wouldn't miss it! M & M Green
Monica November 24, 2011 at 10:11 PM
Yummy and full... now time time for the after Turkey Nap... if you haven't had your dinner yet they were still in full swing when we left!


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