South Philadelphia Restaurant Helps Jamaicans Seeking Asylum

South Philadelphia Restaurant Helps Jamaicans Seeking Asylum

Francis Cratil-Cretarola, the grandchild of Italian immigrants, and Catherine Lee, the child of Chinese immigrants, are the co-owners of Le Virtù, a famed South Philadelphia restaurant, and they have advocated for the rights of immigrants and for immigration reform for a long time. They are moved to do so because of their own family histories and the family-like relationships they have with their staff, who are mostly from Mexico. The couple is active in aiding the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, hoping their efforts will eventually lead to legislation that recognizes immigrants to the United States are more like “the backbone” of the country than its enemies.

Now the restaurant owners are helping a Jamaican family that found refuge from a deportation order at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown by selling Jamaican-style bread pudding made according to a traditional family recipe Oneita Thompson, her husband Clive, 12-year-old son Timothy, and daughter Christina shared with them. The Thompsons came to the US in 2004 to escape gang violence that burned their farm and endangered their lives on their home island. Now facing a deportation order, Christina, 15, who was born in the US, is afraid her parents will be sent back to a country that she does not know.

Cratil-Cretarola first tasted Oneita’s Jamaican-style bread pudding at the church and decided to sell the dessert at Le Virtu to help the family. Right away, the raisins and cherries required for the pudding were soaked in white rum and red wine at the church’s industrial kitchen. The recipe for the pudding was printed up and called “Christina’s Jamaican-Style Bread Pudding for Immigrant Children.” The following day, the restaurant owners brought Christina to the restaurant, and while she was shy at first, she soon took control and showed Chef Damon Menapace the finer details that ensured the recipe’s successful outcome. The chef did add his own rum-and-caramel sauce, however.

While the restaurant’s owners had first planned to sell the bread pudding just through March 2019, they have decided to keep it on the menu a while longer. All proceeds from the sale of the “Sanctuary Bread Pudding” at the restaurant go to help the Thompson family.



About the author

Staff Writer