When the owners of a popular Fort Worth restaurant heard about the killing of two New York police officers earlier this month, they were in disbelief.
“I felt extremely frustrated, angry … and the frustration says to me, somebody’s got to do something,” said Al Micallef, co-owner of Reata.
He and his son, Mike, decided to buy lunch for more than 1,000 Fort Worth police officers, starting Friday through Dec. 31.
“It is a huge financial sacrifice, to feed that many,” he said. “But I think the fact that we’re doing that sends a real clear message that we really believe in what we say... we really do appreciate you.”
'It Just Fills Your Soul'
Mike Micallef remembers feeling helpless when he heard the officers were killed at point-blank range while having lunch in a patrol car in Brooklyn.
“They’re sitting in their car, and a person who’s hell-bent on hurting a police officer comes up behind them and assassinates them. To ever be targeted for what you do for work, I think is incredibly difficult,” he said.
The Micallefs hope other restaurants in Texas and across the United States will show support for their local police departments too.
“I can’t tell you how much this means to our department and to the officers,” said Sgt. Steve Enright, a spokesman for the Fort Worth Police Department. “To have someone come back and say 'we appreciate you, as much as you appreciate us,' it’s just overwhelming; it just fills your soul.”
For lunch, he had the jalapeno cilantro soup.
“It is the best soup I think I’ve ever had,” Enright said. “And I had a grilled cheese sandwich, and they didn’t say it’s a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich. But when you have bacon and tomato, and it tastes as good as it did, I’m happily miserable right now.”
Officer Sean Harris, with the Fort Worth police department’s SWAT team, enjoyed his meal, too. He had tenderloin tacos.
'It's A Thankless Job'
“Thin strips of tenderloin cut up into a flour tortilla, with grilled onions, guacamole, rice and beans; excellent,” he said. “More times than not, it’s a thankless job. People don’t understand the sacrifices we make. And the tough part is hthe perception of the public, and what they want to believe, instead of getting all the facts.”
After eating Reata’s specialty, the Buffalo Burger, Paul Genualdo, a SWAT sergeant on the Fort Worth Police Department, said: “As police officers, we don’t act in a personal matter towards people that we’re trying to help. But that [the NYPD killing] felt very personal. It was like an attack on our family.”
Officer Maria Salinas didn’t offer her thoughts on the double-killing in New York. But she’s happy to talk about her free meal.
“Reata has really, really done great by allowing us to come in here and just enjoy our meal,” she said. “And we really appreciate it.”
The owners of Reata also took care of gratuity for their servers, but Bobby Powers, one of the wait staff, says he just got a $100 tip.
“I was a little shocked at first,” Powers said. “Another server saw it, and came and told me... I was extremely grateful. I thought 'cool.'”