Philanthropic Restaurateurs Named ‘Men Of The Year'

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Gerardo Moceri and John Posteraro, co-owners of Cucina Paradiso restaurant, have been in Payson a mere two and a half years, yet have a lengthy list of philanthropic contributions. They share the award for Payson's Man of the Year.

Posteraro and Moceri believed they were being interviewed for a story on the Character Counts program, and were asked to speak on the topic of citizenship. Always willing to make time for visitors, they were unaware that they were to be honored as Payson's Men of the Year.

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Whether it was a devastating fire or a charity auction, John Posteraro and Gerardo Moceri, co-owners of Cucina Paradiso, were more than willing to open their hearts and their kitchen to folks in the Rim country.

Who can forget Moceri and Posteraro's efforts during the Rodeo-Chediski Fire? After winning an award from the National Restaurant Association for providing nearly 3,500 meals a day to evacuees and firefighters for ten days, Moceri said, "I saw what was happening and had the skills and resources to help. What else would I do?" and proceeded to credit the volunteers for winning the award.

"Everyone helped out. I couldn't have done it alone," Moceri said. "The firefighters -- those guys were the real heroes."

While their response to the fire stands out, Moceri and Posteraro have continuously stepped up to the plate to help any one or organization in need.

They have assisted in raising money for everything from the library, hospice and the human society to Justin Richardson, a local boy battling a relapse of leukemia.

"Helping Justin was a no-brainer. We know him and his family," Moceri said.

Humble beginnings

Both Moceri and Posteraro grew up in tough, inner city neighborhoods but see a common ground in Payson -- community.

"I grew up in an Italian neighborhood in the Bronx," Posteraro said. "Sure, New York City is all hustle and bustle, but when you go home to your neighborhood, everybody knows each other and that's how Payson is. This is a neighborhood place."

Raised by parents that instilled the value of giving, they wish to continue the tradition.

"My father was in the fruit business and he used to give away fruit to the kids," Moceri said. "We want our kids to grow up being able to understand to give and help others less fortunate."

While Moceri is the man in Cucina's open kitchen, Posteraro works the floor to create a team of impeccable service to restaurant patrons and the greater community.

"We wanted to have an open kitchen so that when people come in, they can see me and I get a chance to say hello to them," Moceri said.

"It's much more personable," Posteraro said. "Our patrons become our friends, our family."

Name a charity in town and Moceri and Posteraro have most likely contributed to it. Whether they donate a gift basket, pizzas, or put on a large banquet, the two rarely say "no" to anyone.

"We're always willing to help," Moceri said. "All they have to do is ask."

Hospice is an organization close to Moceri's heart; his mother died while under the care of hospice workers.

"Kids are also important," Moceri said. "We never say ‘no' when it comes to the kids. God gave me the talent to cook, and I can help others through my food. I'm not rich. Sure if I had a million dollars, I would give out money. But I don't -- so I am blessed to be able to do it with my food," he said.

"Gerardo is blessed with a talent," Posteraro said. "You do what you gotta do with your heart as your guide."

Moceri and Posteraro believe their giving has earned them a lot in return from the community.

"The community has given us a lot, too," Moceri said. "They thank us with bringing other people to our restaurant."

Moceri and Posteraro see their continued giving as part of their long-term plan.

"We're not going anywhere," Moceri said. "I'm raising my kids here. We're in it for the long haul."

Good news from two men of good works and good food.

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