Owners of Plano’s Bella Italia Will Give Away Free Meals for Thanksgiving

Ari Isufaj moved to the United States from Kosovo in 1999. A civil war was ongoing in his home country, and he needed a safe place to live. On Ari’s first Thanksgiving in the U.S., a family he barely knew provided him with a turkey to eat. As a refugee far from home, he never forgot that gesture of kindness. Twenty one years later, Ari and his wife, Blinera, now own Bella Italia Ristorante in Plano, and want to offer that same gesture of kindness for their fellow Plano residents.

Ari’s first job at age 15 was in the restaurant industry, and he’s now been in the restaurant industry for more than 20 years. In 2014 he bought a restaurant but eventually decided to sell it so he could start something of his own. On March 6, 2019, Ari and Blinera opened Bella Italia. A year later, COVID-19 hit.

Ari and his wife, Blinera // courtesy Ari Isufaj
Ari and his wife, Blinera // photos courtesy Ari Isufaj

“We have been very blessed by our customers during COVID,” shared Ari. “Our customers came through and supported us. A woman called two months ago and said she wanted to come and bless our restaurant. She brought a group and their check was $300, and they left a $1,800 tip.”

Bella Italia’s customers have continually shown their support throughout the pandemic. An elderly couple, though they’re afraid to dine in and don’t prefer to order take-out, sends a $50 check each month just because they love Bella Italia. 

Because of the way the community has come through for them, Ari and Blinera are overwhelmed with gratitude. This Wednesday, Nov. 25 between 12-3 p.m., Bella Italia Ristorante will be giving away 200 meals to anyone in need. They will be providing lasagne, spaghetti with meatballs and cannelloni in individually packaged take-out containers.

Bella Italia Ristorante // courtesy Ari Isufaj

“This year, we all found ourselves struggling in various ways that none of us could foresee. Unfortunately, some found more hardship than others. Nonetheless, Thanksgiving still remains the holiday to be thankful and to share with our neighbors,” shared Ari.

Ari wants anyone who could use a free meal to come by. Whether you’re a medical worker, financially strapped due to unemployment, someone who has been negatively affected by the pandemic, or anything in between, Bella Italia wants to feed you, free of charge. The 200 meals are first come, first served.

Bella Italia Ristorante >


3948 Legacy Dr.

Plano TX 75023

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