BELENFor more than three months, Gianni and Mila Moretti have been purposely putting smiles on people’s faces one meal at a time.  

As farmers, the couple know the importance of food — fresh food precisely. While the owners of Moretti Farm and Ranch LLC in Bernardo are a couple of years away from being able to actually farm their land, they’re making sure people are able to get fresh food, specifically at the Blue Line Grill food truck in Belen. 

Joe Portio, at right, owner of the Blue Line Grill food truck, has made fast friends with Gianni Moretti and his wife, Mila, and 14-month-old daughter, Æva, while the family has paid for meals for more than 100 people. (Clara Garcia | News-Bulletin photo)

Gianni and Mila starting purchasing land about three years ago, and have been cultivating the property in northern Socorro County, getting it ready for planting. In the meantime, the couple has made it a point to only eat farm fresh food, never eating out.  

That all changed one day in November when they were tired and driving home. 

“Being farmers and ranchers, we grow and raise all of our own food, and we just don’t eat out — it’s not real food, it’s just industrial food,” Moretti said. “A lot of people have told me that we needed to try Blue Line Grill, but we always blew it off because we just don’t eat out.” 

The couple was driving home from Santa Fe just before Thanksgiving and they weren’t in the mood to go home and cook.  

“As we were driving down Main Street, I just happened to notice the food truck,” Moretti said of Joe Portio’s Blue Line Grill, which is parked in the Caldwell Food Court on the corner of Main Street and Chavez Avenue in Belen.  

Moretti said after he ordered a couple of hamburgers, he took them to his truck, where he and his wife began eating.  

“As soon as I took a bite, all I could thing was, ‘My Lord, that’s amazing,’ and I knew I had to just buy it for someone else because they have to experience this,” he remembers. “To taste this fresh food at a food truck was just a pleasant surprise.” 

Since that very first day, the Morettis made a decision to continue to feed people, by way of Portio and the Blue Line Grill.  

“Feeding people is what we do and we just can’t feed the community right now; and then it clicked,” he said. “We can — through Joe — feed the community.” 

So every time the Morettis stop by — now a couple of times a week to buy a burger or a Philly cheese steak, Mila’s favorite — they hand Portio enough money to buy a couple of meals for his next customers. As of last week, the Morettis have paid for more than 100 people to eat a meal at the local food truck.  

“Sometimes we’ll give him some cash and tell him to make sure the local law enforcement eats today,” Moretti said. “I’ve gotten so many phone calls from people who have received food. Many have told me since I paid for their food, they paid for someone else’s meal. It’s just snowballed.” 

Portio, a retired police officer, remembers the day when the Morettis first stopped by to buy a burger.  

“He showed up with a little cocky attitude,” Portio recalls. “He goes, ‘I heard you made a good burger.’ I replied, ‘Yeah, I think I do.’ So he said he wanted to try it even though they don’t eat at restaurants.” 

The Morettis now stop by at least twice a week on Wednesdays and Fridays to grab a meal and pay for a few more. 

“Right away, they started showing their generosity, giving extra money to pay for extra meals,” said Portio, who has operated the food truck for three years. “He definitely takes care of our first responders; he’s a big supporter of law enforcement. 

“This is a beautiful family who knows how to treat people in the community,” he says. “It’s nice to see it these days.” 

Portio said a couple of other customers will also pay it forward, saying it’s been an addictive activity they’ve been fortunate to be a part of. 

The Morettis say they’re grateful to live in a community where people are willing to pay it forward, and say they will continue to help pay for meals until either Portio hangs up his apron or no one needs food anymore.  

Moretti said it’s a given that people will always need food — good, fresh food — and, as agriculture producers and agricultural consultants with Moretti BioAg, he’s committed to remind the community local farms and ranchers, and even food truck owners, are vital.  

“Joe’s is the only place we eat out at,” Moretti said. “When he gives out our free meal, he’ll hand them our business card and three out of five times, that person will call. It gives me the opportunity to remind them to support their local farmers and ranchers.” 

Moretti estimates he’s spent about $1,000 so far, but says it’s not about the money — it’s about helping the community.  

“There is no more noble cause than feeding people,” he said. “At the end of the day, if people are not fed, there is no more people. Because we’ve done that, others have done it, too, and we’re part of a community who cares for one another.” 

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.