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A longtime customer gifts every employee of Sapori Ristorante a $1,000 gift card during coronavirus crisis

Sapori Ristorante
Valentine Memeron, an employee at Sapori Ristorante in Newport Beach, prepares several pizzas for takeout on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Newport Beach’s Sapori Ristorante has been open since 1989, and one customer has been eating its high-end Italian cuisine and pizza for almost the entire time.

Recently, as the government ordered restaurants to limit their business to takeout and delivery during the coronavirus crisis, one customer asked one of the head servers how many employees worked at the restaurant and what their names were.

On Sunday afternoon, the customer presented all 35 employees, from the head server to the dishwasher, with an envelope. Inside each one was a letter — and a $1,000 Visa gift card.

Sapori Ristorante
A letter and a $1,000 gift card were given to each of the 35 employees of Sapori Ristorante by Newport Beach customer David Pyle.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

“I feel like the Sapori family has been part of my family for over three decades,” the letter read. “Anne always greets me with a smile, no matter how busy the restaurant. Once, after I was pushed out of another restaurant trying to buy a pizza, I challenged Salvatori to make a better pizza ... and he did by adding a pizza oven!”

He complimented the staff’s teamwork and said that every night he visits is like “a beautiful ‘symphony’ of culinary excellence.”

When owner Sal Maniaci and his staff wanted to publicly share the generous act, the customer was at first reluctant.

David Pyle eventually agreed to let them share his name. He’s the founder and chief executive of American Career College, executive chairman of the board of West Coast University and the philanthropist behind OneRoot Foundation, which he described to the employees in the letter as “philanthropy established in education and fortified in the calling of service and support.”

Sapori Ristorante
Sal Maniaci, left, owner of Sapori Ristorante, and Paolo Iaccarino pose for a photo outside the Newport Beach restaurant. Sapori is closed for onsite dining but open for takeout and delivery.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Before his gesture, many of the employees didn’t know Pyle and what he did. They just knew him as a regular customer and a nice man.

He thought that by putting his name out, it would inspire others who know him, especially those who also have the means, to do the same.

Of Sapori’s 35 employees, only eight to 10 are still working on takeout and delivery orders.

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