CITY NEWS SERVICE
IRVINE — They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but that wasn’t the case on Friday at Lucca Cafe in Irvine.
Active military or veterans got a free lunch, no strings attached, at the restaurant in honor of Veterans Day, courtesy of owners Chef Cathy and Elliott Pavlos.
“My father passed away this year, and my dad was a Korean War vet, so basically we’re doing this in his memory,” Cathy Pavlos said.
“I think that veterans in Orange County and the active military are invisible. We can’t see them so we can’t thank them. If we were down by Camp Pendleton or Oceanside we’d be constantly surrounded by military, but in Orange County we’re insulated from that.”
So the free lunch was a good way to draw the military in for a show of gratitude, Pavlos said.
Pavlos’ father, Robert L. Stellrecht, was a corporal and tank commander in the Army in Korea.
On Saturday, the couple got a chance to thank more veterans when one of their regulars, Frank Sugihara, came in to celebrate his 60th wedding anniversary and to show off the medal he and his Army buddies received from Congress the week before.
During World War II, Sugihara was a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most highly decorated unit for its size in the nation’s history.
“Frank and his buddies liberated the city of Lucca in Italy (the restaurant’s namesake) — he told me that one day and that’s how I know him,” Pavlos said.
Orange County’s veterans took advantage of more free fun at Pretend City Children’s Museum in Irvine, which offered free admission to active military, veterans and their immediate families.