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Lotto Winner Didn’t Believe News : Lottery: Matriarch of family business pool that won half of $56 million initially hung up on her son.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

At the crack of dawn Thursday, Gina De Giosa received a call from her oldest son, Joe, who had just opened up the family deli to bake bread for the day and checked the winning numbers in Wednesday’s $56-million Lotto drawing.

“He said, ‘Mom, mom! We won the lottery!’ ” said De Giosa.

“But I didn’t believe him so I hung up on him.”

But the oldest De Giosa son called back. Although he was barely able to speak with excitement, he finally convinced his mother that it was no joke--a pool of 15 family members, friends and employees had just won half of the big jackpot.

“I am still kinda shaky about it,” the matriarch of the large Italian clan said Thursday morning. “I have a nervous stomach, but I am trying to absorb it all.”

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De Giosa and her husband, Benito, owners of Italia Deli & Bakery in Agoura Hills, kicked in $5 to the lottery pool with their four adult children, three teen-age employees and seven friends last weekend when the jackpot hit the $50 million mark.

On Monday, they bought the first of 75 quick-pick tickets from the nearby Sav-on Osco drug store. On Wednesday, they spent the remainder of the pool, and that’s when they bought the winning ticket.

When the news came at 6:30 a.m. that they had won, everyone in the pool was notified and all but one showed up at the small Italian deli on Kanan Road.

Despite their windfall, they labored as usual through an eight-hour day, making Italian sandwiches, greeting customers with small talk and graciously accepting congratulations, before heading over to the lottery office in Van Nuys to claim their prize.

They will get roughly $1.9 million each, spread out in payments of about $95,000 a year before taxes for 20 years. Each will be separately registered with Lotto officials as winner of one-15th of the jackpot, said Benito De Giosa.

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“I still can’t believe it,” said Nora Trimarco of Westlake Village, a De Giosa family friend who occasionally helps out at the store and contributed $5 to the pool. “Already my daughter wants a new car.”

Other winners include De Giosa son Joe, 32; daughter Marisa, 28; son Michael, 26, and daughter Rosanna, 19. And deli employees Jennifer Farhit, 18, Mark Marrewa, 19, Alesia Verruso, 19, and friends Trimarco, 45, her daughter Sharon, 23, Mindy Lewis, 40, Christina Guerriero, 25, Filiberto Nunez, 34, Ciro Canale, 32, and Elliott Villegas, 27.

Well-known in Agoura Hills as the owners of the 15-year-old deli with fresh-baked Italian bread to die for, the De Giosas received calls and visits from a flood of well-wishers from as far away as Bari, Italy.

“We have a lot of good customers,” said Michael De Giosa. “But mostly people are calling us up and asking if we are going to stay open.”

The De Giosas plan to keep the deli open but say the employees and their children may have ideas of their own.

“They are all adults and can spend the money the way they want to,” Gina De Giosa said. She plans on traveling to Italy, where she was born, to visit relatives and friends that she hasn’t seen in 12 years.

The youngest De Giosa, Rosanna, said she plans on realizing a longtime dream: opening her own clothing store.

“I am like, tripping out right now though,” she said as she greeted friends who dropped in to congratulate her. “Just totally freaking out.”

There was only one dark cloud on the De Giosas’ sunny horizon Thursday. Only one of their employees, a young woman, declined to join the pool last week when offered a chance--making her the only one at the deli not to share in the bonanza.

“She called us this morning, crying,” Rosanna said. “But she said she was really happy for us. We just feel really bad for her.”

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So bad in fact that the winners offered to pay off her car as compensation.

The other winning ticket in Wednesday’s drawing, for the sixth-largest jackpot in the 10-year history of the twice-weekly game, was claimed by Barbara Hamilton-Moerer, a 36-year-old elementary school teacher in Redding, Calif.

The two retailers where the winning tickets were bought, Sav-on in Agoura Hills and 7-Eleven in Redding, will each receive a $145,000 commission, said Jeanne Winnick of the California Lottery office.

The winning numbers were: 11, 20, 28, 33, 35 and 44.


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