Local pizza owner gives back to community

Feb 21, 2024 | GTA/Local News, News

It was a cold December day when Zeynel “Dino” Ari first got the urge to return to his pizza shop on The Queensway in south Etobicoke and light up the wood burner.

While walking in the downtown area, he noticed many homeless people sleeping on the streets during the holiday season.

“I came here and I talked to my staff and then we made pizzas, about maybe 50 pizzas. That was about maybe 500 slices,” he said.

It’s been 15 years since then.

A Turkish immigrant, Ari has been running Dino’s Wood Burning Pizza since 2007.

Ari used to go to Moss Park, in the Queen Street East and Parliament Street area, every Saturday, but factors including the increasing cost of ingredients forced him to lessen how often he and his staff go out.

“You know it becomes more tougher and tougher because the price is going up and up every day,” he said.

When COVID-19 first hit, Ari had opened his second location on Kipling Avenue.

“It was really hard at the beginning, but we were the only businesses open at that time for delivery and pickups,” he said.

Despite the obstacles, Ari’s compassionate deeds remained unstoppable.

He made it his duty during COVID-19 to prepare pies for frontline workers, giving slices to doctors and nurses across hospitals.

“Those people, they really put their life, their heart into it for us and we as business owners, that was my obligation to give back to people,” he said.

Ari said nobody could ignore the amount of people in the city that need help.

“When you go to the shelters right downtown, you see hundreds of people staying outside in this cold, especially summertime,” he said. “People, they appreciate what we do, and we also do good quality pizza.”

Ari said his concerns are plentiful, including worrying about international students. He invited them over for free food.

“I want to also be an example for other business owners to do the same,” he said.

Ari can’t help but notice the increasing cost of living crisis and the rising homeless population.

“It’s getting bigger and bigger, and most important, the poverty is getting bigger and bigger. You know, people cannot afford to buy groceries and stuff like that,” he said.

“We have to help our community. We get involved with them and the community must support their local small businesses like us so we can survive,” he said.

Ari ran for councillor of Ward 3 Etobicoke–Lakeshore in 2022, wanting to better the community he has spent years living and working in.

“I like to get involved in the community to help people to be the voice for the people and to bring their problems up,” he said.

Amber Morley won that election.

Ari doesn’t plan to stop giving back any time soon. He said kindness is something that a person can’t stop passing it forward.

“It makes you happy, it gives you inner peace and that’s why you want to do more and more,” he said.