Although Nitza’s Pizza has been open in Sherwood Park for just two months, it’s already becoming woven into the fabric of the community. That can be attributed to owner Peter Giannakopoulos’ pledge to make his restaurant very welcoming to everyone – families, schools, students and more.
“We want everyone to feel welcome and at home here. My niece Nitza, who we named the restaurant after, was very generous with everyone and we want to carry that on in her honour,” Peter said.
Nitza was just 11 years old when she was diagnosed with cancer and told she only had a few months to live. Getting care at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, she would go on shopping trips with her uncle Peter to buy candy, which she would give away to other kids at the hospital. One day, Peter jokingly suggested that buying all the candy to give to other kids was starting to get expensive and that Nitza needed to find away to help pay for it. She had a great idea. Change the name of his pizza restaurant to Nitza’s Pizza, and pay her royalties for the name. Then she’d use those royalties to buy candy for other kids.
Not only did the name stick, so did the spirit of her generosity. Peter continues to fundraise for the Stollery, and also offers a lot to help the community. If any individuals or groups are hosting fundraisers and they need a spot to host it, or they need food to be catered to it, Nitza’s will be there to donate their space or their pizza. He’s told every school in Sherwood Park that he will supply the entire school with pizza one day a year – completely free of charge. And he hopes they take him up on that. He’s also given away coupons for more than 15,000 free slices of pizza to students at local schools.
“Maybe kids are having a bad day, we want to cheer them up with free pizza or maybe they’re having a great day and we can make it better,” Peter said.
Every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nitza’s opens its doors for Family Day, where parents bring in their kids for a tour of the restaurant and the opportunity to make their own pizza. And you guessed it, there’s no charge for that either.
One of the many unique things about Nitza’s is that fountain pop and slushes are always free, even if you don’t buy anything else.
“If you’re walking your dog or your kids are on a bike ride, we want you to come in for a free drink,” Peter said. “And that’s not just an introductory offer. At Nitza’s Pizza, pop and slushes will always be free.”
The name might also confuse Sherwood Park residents as there is another Nitza’s Pizza on Sherwood Drive, which is not affiliated with this one on Wye Road. That restaurant used to be owned by Peter, but he sold it several years ago. Now, the new owners have stopped paying royalties to use the name, according to Peter. “It’s very upsetting, because of what the name means to me and my family. Not only does the name represent my business, more importantly it represents my niece.” Peter says he hopes they change the name so both restaurants can more forward.
“I want to be sure that any restaurant using my niece’s name knows what that name means. She was so dear to me and such an amazing person, I feel very strongly about that,” Peter said.
Published in the Sherwood Park News in November 2012