The owner of a beloved restaurant on Richmond Row is using Aroma’s final hours to help others.
Felipe Gomes has to walk away from Aroma Mediterranean Restaurant after suffering a heart attack about a year ago and being unable to find anyone to take over.
“We are so lucky, London, to have this community with these incredible, knowledgeable doctors that can do marvelous things in our community – we are so lucky,” he explained on The Craig Needles Show on AM980 Thursday morning.
“I was in the hands of a doctor… and she said ‘Felipe, this is not a cure, this is just going to be a touch up, and you must change your life. Your stress must be reduced, and you also must take care of your diet and everything else that goes with.'”
To celebrate the journey and memories, Aroma is hosting a holiday fundraising dinner on Thursday.
The sold out event supports the Holy Cross Church Homeless Program and the Sousa Mendes Foundation, which shares the stories of Holocaust survivors who escaped with the help of a Portuguese diplomat.
“Only the past numbers of years this lady, Oliva Mattis, she asked her father ‘daddy, tell me more about how did we survive the Holocaust?’ And the father says, ‘Europe was in chaos, and the only way to get out of Europe it was to cross Spain and make it to Portugal so we could get to the ships’,” Gomes explains.
“So this Portuguese guy was stamping the passport, and then doing three days, lineups of people were outside the Consul-General, to please, plead to him to stamp the passport. He did, he did, and he paid with his life. Because when he went back to Portugal, he died in misery in Portugal. And that’s the story that has not been told and that’s why I’m hoping and I’m so passionate about having Dr. Oliva Mattis in London so she can share that story.”
Dr. Oliva Mattis, president and co-founder of the foundation, will be speaking at Thursday’s dinner.
Those helped by Sousa Mendes include the authors of Curious George, as well as artist Salvador Dali and his wife.
When asked why he’s chosen to end the story of Aroma with a charity dinner, Gomes says it’s in his blood.
“When you have 13 children in Portugal – Lisbon – during the dictatorship, things were tough. But mother was brought up in the convent, mother was brought up to share. When you come in the home of sharing with 13 siblings, and you watch your mother giving charity to all the people on the street – and you know you’re poor yourself, too — how can you not continue? How can you not make that difference, carry on your mother’s legacy?”
The sold-out dinner begins at 6 p.m.