Snapshot: Aristotel Zoto
Occupation: I am the owner of Newtown Pizza Palace. I’ve been the owner for three years and a chef there for about 20 years. In 2011, when Pizza Palace had sold, I left and was on the management team for Friendly’s restaurant in Southbury — which became number one in the company.
When I came back and took over Newtown Pizza Palace from Jim and John, my goal was to create a healthy menu and to not precook food. We make the food from scratch, our chicken is organic, we get our seafood fresh daily, we grind our own beef for our burgers, and we have options for vegans. Our portions are generous, and the food is a combination of Greek and Italian. We’re very open-minded, too. I want to hear what people have to say and try it.
Family: I was born in Vlorë, Albania, and raised in Greece. I came to America in 1993 at the age of 17, worked at Pizza Palace from 1993 to 2011, graduated with honors from WestConn, got married to Doriana, and had two kids, Elisia and Brendan. When I got Newtown Pizza Palace, I really needed help, and my hero has been my son. He has been my right hand and is always there for me.
Pets: I have a dog. She’s a white British golden retriever named Bella.
What do you like to do in your free time? Anything I can do with my family — go bowling, watch my son play baseball, play soccer. I’m the kind of person who loves home.
What is your favorite travel destination? Aruba. It’s beautiful on the water. I don’t go as much as I want to, but my family and I went about nine months ago.
What is the best part about Newtown? I really like Newtown. This is like my home. Besides how beautiful the town is, the best part of it is the people. People here are very nice, welcoming, fair, and they are people who will give you a chance. I can’t say how grateful I am to this town and the people here, because they gave me a chance.
Who has been the greatest influence in your life? My mother, Lavdie (Gloria). She passed away 11 years ago, and she always taught me to be a hard worker, honest, respectful, sincere, and tolerant. Those lessons have been very helpful in my life.
If you could spend the day with one person, who would you choose and why? Shaquille O’Neal. My wife met him, but the reason why I like him is not because he’s a superstar in basketball — it’s because of the type of human being he is. When people were burning police cars in L.A., he helped buy new police cars. He’s been involved with a lot of charities, too, and that inspires me, because I’m the type of person who always wants to give back to the community.
Who is your favorite musical artist? For classical music, my favorite composer is Mozart, because I was a musician in school and played trombone. I also like Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler.
Do you have a favorite TV show? I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I’ve watched every single episode of Game of Thrones.
What is your favorite food? Seafood.
What is the greatest piece of advice you have ever been given? My mother would say, “Don’t believe what you hear, believe what you see.” Another piece of advice she gave is “Treat people the way you would want to be treated.”
What is something you cannot live without? Water! But also smiling.
What is your proudest accomplishment? I always wanted to own a business. I have had a love for restaurants since I was a kid. I always said before I owned the restaurant that I wouldn’t be able to rest in peace if I didn’t open one. It was always in my head. As the owner of Newtown Pizza Palace, when people say they appreciate what you do for them, it’s the best feeling and makes my day.
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