Courtesy Dara Bunjon

In today’s divisive political climate, Riccardo Bosio wants Baltimoreans to come together. Next week, he’s offering everyone in Baltimore a seat at the table by hosting a potluck dinner in the name of friendship at his beloved Sotto Sopra Restaurant.

The event dubbed the “Friendship Covered Dish Party,” asks that guests bring a homemade dish to share at his restaurant on Monday night. Bosio is giving his staff a paid day off to make room for everyone’s home cooking.

“It’s very simple,” he said today. “Bring some food, ’cause I’m not cooking.”

Bosio moved from Bergamo in northern Italy to Baltimore in 1996 and opened Sotto Sopra downtown on N. Charles Street. Over the last two decades, his restaurant has cemented its reputation as a destination for rich Italian cooking made with local ingredients. Sotto Sopra has also earned praise for its romantic classical décor and regular live opera nights.

But the focus for Monday’s dinner is more about unity than food and atmosphere. “I just want to do something for Baltimore, just as a community,” Bosio said.

He said today’s political climate echoes the social atmosphere of Poland during Cold War in the 1980s, a period of economic turmoil, social unrest and oppressive governance under Soviet rule. His wife, Monika, is from the eastern European country. She relied on friends and family and plenty of homemade food to share during that time to survive, he said.

Bosio said many today are concerned by what they see or read in the news. “It’s just a very nervous atmosphere,” he said.

The chef is inviting all who live in Baltimore to attend, so long as they bring a dish large enough to serve 12 to 15 people. He’s also extended invitations to Mayor Catherine Pugh and Gov. Larry Hogan, he said. (Mayor Pugh’s office told Bosio she may have an engagement that evening but will see if another official can attend in her place.)

“I want to use the restaurant as a point of conversation, not just to serve food,” Bosio said. “Walls or no walls, people will still be people. It’s all about us.”

The Friendship Covered Dish Party starts at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 30, at Sotto Sopra, located at 405 N. Charles Street.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...