Good food and a glass of wine greets visitors to a Greek Orthodox church that is looking to open its arms to the community in Friern Barnet with a weekly lunch.
Father Damien Constantino, of St Katherine the Great Church in Friern Barnet Lane, welcomes several dozen people who break bread with him at the venue’s recently refurbished communal hall every Thursday.
The Greek Orthodox priest has a regular chef who provides a delicious lunch in exchange for whatever contributions the guests want to make.
Father Damien said: “If people don’t want to or can’t pay, they don’t pay. The purpose is to build a relationship with the community and create good company.
“We invite everyone, whatever their origin. The church must be a heroic figure in the community – we fight for everyone. It is not just about religion – we are brothers with everyone.”
The church has a regular chef who comes in to cook a variety of cuisines, but last week it welcomed Giorgio Sgariglia, the founder and former owner of the Al Fresco restaurant in Whetstone High Road.
He and his good friend Giampiero Ballantini cooked up a fantastic seafood pasta for almost 30 members of the community, who enjoyed laughter and good conversation over lunch.
Retired Andreas Theochari, who has been coming to the lunch since it was first held last year, said: “There is a great community feel. It is very sociable and the food is excellent.
“It is a wonderful environment and there is no age limit. Mixing with people like this – it keeps you feeling young.”
Anyone is welcome to attend the church on Thursday lunchtimes at 1pm.