Clermont restaurant owner serves up good food and gratitude

Clermont restaurant owner serves up good food and lots of gratitude

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Robert Scambia knows his food.  He owns R&C Italian Bakery and Deli in Clermont, and ever since 9-11, he's been serving dinner to firefighters throughout the state every single week.

Wednesday night, we caught up with Scambia at Orange County Fire Rescue House #42 in Pine Hills in Orlando.

"I can come here and cook and that's all I can give them:  food.  They go out there and they save our lives," Scambia says.

He hails from the Bronx, but has lived and served up food in Central Florida for more than a decade.  On September 11, 2001, he lost a close friend in the World Trade Center.

Thinking of people that died in the towers, he says with tears in his eyes, "You know, a lot of the firefighters you become close to when you cook for them and you say, 'OK, we'll see you next time.'   But you don't know.  Life is funny."

Firefighter Lt. Garrett Wienckowski knows that all too well.

"Firefighting is a brotherhook," Wienckowski says.   "You take care of one firefighter, it's like you're taking care of everybody.  We're all family, and he's [Robert] part of our family here."

The dinner is also to honor Lt. Gary Spahn.  He's retiring after almost 31 years of service.    

Spahn says this about having Robert cook one of his last dinners here, "It's very much appreciated, but it's kind of uncomfortable in some ways."  Spahn adds that he would rather remain "behind the scenes."

And that's exactly why Scambia will continue to do this every week for every firefighter around the state, in honor of all those who serve.  He said he also plans to publish a cookbook with 343 recipes, one for each firefighter who perished in the World Trade Center.   All proceeds will go to firefighters or for life-saving equipment, he adds.

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