PINELLAS PARK, FLORIDA — Jessi’s Restaurant, 8331 – 66th Street, North in Pinellas Park, received Florida’s Restaurant Neighbor Award for its contributions to the community. The award is presented annually by the National Restaurant Association in cooperation with American Express.

“Restaurants demonstrate an unwavering commitment to their communities in good times and bad,” proclaims the association’s website. “Perhaps no other industry has deeper community roots. In large and small communities, people turn to restaurants each day for sustenance, support and socialization – and restaurants give back to their communities, improving the quality of life for all they serve.”

The Restaurant Neighbor Award promotes the role of restaurants as cornerstones of their communities, highlighting their efforts to improve quality of life.

Jessi’s Restaurant, winning for the state in the small restaurant category, is an active member of the Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce, and recently became a Trustee of the Chamber. It hosts Chamber mixers, sponsors luncheons, supports the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, and recently added its support to the Pinellas Park Medical District.

After more than 20 years in the same location, Jessi’s Restaurant is a landmark in its community.

The restaurant was acquired by DJ and Roza Sulisufay in 1997 and became a popular gathering point for citizens and civic leaders. When DJ’s health faltered, son Jason stepped up to keep the family business going. Today, Jason Sulisufay owns Jessi’s, and DJ and Roza are still active in its operation.

The Seminole resident updated the restaurant’s interior, upgraded its menu, improved the parking lot and landscaping, and is currently renovating the restaurant’s façade.

Shortly before learning that his restaurant was Florida’s Restaurant Neighbor for the year Sulisufay found out that one of the restaurant’s part-time employees had been diagnosed with breast cancer. He helped her find affordable health insurance, then opened and helped fund a bank account to assist with medical and living expenses.

“It was the right thing to do,” points out Sulisufay. “Jessi’s began as a family restaurant, and we’re family.”