Restaurant's tradition of giving back comes full circle

Sometimes something as small as a meal can make the biggest difference.

Andres Bautista was last at Donatello Italian Restaurant in 2012, one of the many at-risk teens invited to its annual Thanksgiving celebration.

Back then, Bautista came with a community group called "Menivision." Sitting in these same chairs, he can remember how he felt that day, and how far he's come.

"It's like a feeling where you're lost, and you're nothing," he said. "I'm thankful; it's amazing to be back here."

It’s a tradition Gino Tiozzo's father, Guido, began in 1987. 

"It's the community that welcomed us, has supported us, and after a few years of living here, in the ‘80s, my father wanted to do something to give back," Tiozzo said. 

It wasn't intended to be an annual tradition, but it quickly turned into one.

"It probably started with 20 foster children and a couple families, and now it's an event where we feed about 800 to 1,000 people," he said. "We've watched some children grow up and even come back and help."

Bautista is one of them. Today, he's returned with the same community group that helped raise him. This time, with teens who are the same age he was in 2012. 

"For this restaurant to open their doors to probably hundreds of people, free of charge, is just a blessing and amazing," Bautista offered.

Guido Tiozzo began the tradition in 1987. He passed away this year.

Others, like Octaviano Morales, say it's way more than he could have expected for his family. 

"I thought it was something small, but it looks like it's pretty big," Morales said. "I'm grateful, I'm very grateful, and I thank the owner for doing this."

Though it's the first year without Guido Tiozzo, who passed away in May, Geno says they're proud to keep the tradition going.

"It's more emotional, but I'm very happy to be here, I'm very happy to do this in his honor and in his memory," he said. “It was more important to him that this restaurant opened its doors today than any other day of the year.”