By Brandon Henry
When Manny Tzilvelis first moved to FishHawk Ranch in 2003 from his original home in Queens, New York in search for a better life for his children, he never could have imagined that his future restaurant would become such an important fixture in the local community.
From its humble beginnings as a small, struggling pizzeria to the full-fledged Italian restaurant it is today, Formaggios’ embodies the giving spirit exhibited by Tzilvelis and his family.
From Relay for Life to school club fundraisers, Tzilvelis is quick to mobilize Formaggios’ into its signature giving mode. From treating a family victimized by a house fire to a free dinner or to closing the entire restaurant to celebrate a championship win, Formaggios has seen charity in all shapes and forms come through its doors.
“As soon as we hear that somebody has an issue, we really don’t stop to make sure that we take care of them. At least with our heart, just to make sure that they understand that we’re here and that we feel for them.”
For Tzilvelis, his charitable habit is in part spurred on by his childhood.
As a baseball player during his teenage years, Tzilvelis remembers how disheartening it was to watch cars drive by while trying to collect money on the street.
“We would stand there for an hour and not get anything.”
As for giving to families in need, his motivation is simple.
“Because I sleep better at night.”
But Tzilvelis also understands that his habitual giving has a marketing return.
“Do I want people to know ‘Hey, Manny did so-and-so for the community,’ or ‘Hey, Formaggios also did this for the community.’? Of course I want them to know. Because I want them to know that’s what makes us special, that we also give back,” said Tzilvelis.
But in the end, Tzilvelis hopes his actions with inspire others to give.
He recalls a Facebook status by a local mother asking for suggestions on how to raise money for a school club.
“She must’ve had about 20 replies of people giving her suggestions on how to raise money, but not one person said ‘Hey, why don’t we each collect five dollars’ or ‘Hey, I got 20 bucks for you.’”
“And that’s really what I try and do. And try and show people to step up.”
For more information about Formaggios, visit their website at www.formaggios.com and also like them on Facebook. The main restaurant is located at 5622 Lithia Pinecrest Road, in Lithia. They are open Monday-Thursday from 3:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m., Friday-Saturday from 11:30 a.m-9:00 p.m., and Sunday from 3:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m.