Animarum: Bringing Food and Companionship to Seniors

Gig Harbor’s Animarum typically serves upscale eclectic cuisine in an intimate, speakeasy sort of ambience. But fast-forward to the world of COVID-19, and the need to pivot to a new normal became urgent for this fine-dining restaurant.

Animarum’s owner, Gabriela Oliva, said she learned a number of important lessons when the coronavirus pandemic dealt a blow to her economic security. The daunting reality of an empty restaurant caused her think about the impact her food could have on her community — minus the tinkling of a piano in the corner and servers whisking about the dining room.

In an effort to help those experiencing the sudden loss of support due to social distancing and economic uncertainty, Oliva instituted curbside delivery of fresh meals, like other restaurants all over the South Sound; her model, however, is paired with a side hustle offering free meals to those in need.

“We know (people) need healthy food in order to avoid having to head to a food bank,” Oliva said. “But then we also saw that they don’t just need a free meal, but they need human relations — someone to talk to.”

So, Oliva, her staff, and her volunteers established the Seniors in Need (Feed the Love) Program, taking reservations for caregivers, seniors, and veterans affected by the pandemic to arrive at her parking lot for curbside delivery of a free meal, but also a chance to chat for a few minutes. “We can stay 6 feet away and still show people we care,” she said. “We’ve created a deeper relationship with our senior customers. Seeing the amount of love in the community versus when we were open during normal times   it just means more to us now.”

For those lucky enough to afford a high-end meal to go, Oliva said Animarum offers that, too (including a special wine pairing). Try the Dungeness Crab & Squid Ink Pasta for a treat, or indulge in the Berries & Liege Waffle for a decadent dessert.

Oliva has undertaken a remodel of the restaurant’s lounge while her main dining room is shuttered. Once given the go-ahead, she plans to open the restaurant with a full seasonal summertime menu.

“Our team has been gifted with new friends and guests we never would have come to meet and assist in normal times,” she said. “We are humbled and thankful we could help.” 

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