Orillia pizzeria gives back
Tops in Pizza owner Peter Marinakos dishes out hot, cheesy, pepperoni slices Christmas Day at the Memorial Street eatery. For the past 20 years, the Marinakos family has spent the holiday serving free pizza to anybody who drops in during the afternoon. ROBERTA BELL The Packet & Times
Peter Marinakos would love to open the doors of Tops in Pizza on Christmas Day and have nobody show up.
It would mean there's no need, he explained as he cut up a hot, cheesy pepperoni pizza into eight slices, passing three off to his wife Toni, who served them to an appreciative young family Tuesday afternoon.
"If we can make one person happy that's hungry, it's worth our while," Peter said.
For the past 20 years, the Marinakos, who have owned and operated the Memorial Avenue restaurant since 1974, have spent the holiday handing out free pizza slices to anyone who drops in between during the afternoon.
This one was no exception.
"We get people calling ahead of time and asking if we're going to be opening," said Toni, as she worked with her two sons, Jimmy and Christopher, to whittle away the line snaking out the door. "We can't say no now."
When Peter first decided to open his restaurant Christmas Day and offer free slices, he was skeptical about whether or not people would want them.
"I thought maybe pizza wouldn't be a good idea," said Peter, who quickly realized those who don't have enough to eat aren't picky.
Every year, the demand grows, Toni said, noting this year, the Marinakos baked over 60 pizzas.
The family can't imagine spending the holiday any other way.
"I've had everything I've ever needed and wanted and lots of love... Some people don't have all that," Jimmy said. "To just give our three hours of time to people in need, that's satisfying."
Tops also provides pizza free-of-charge to on-duty fire crews, police officers and paramedics as well as to Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital and local shelters.
Orillians Ian and Gwenne Ewing gave up their afternoon to make the deliveries with their son Quinton and Gwenne's mom Sandy.
"They're there to look after us every day," said Ian, from the front seat of his van after making the first drop off to a crew of appreciative firefighters at the fire hall on West Street.
The family wanted to give something back this year, he said.
"It's just nice to see people smile," Sandy added.