Immigrant restaurant owners give thanks for country and community

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by JIM DOUGLAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas

WFAA

Posted on November 24, 2011 at 9:58 PM

CLEBURNE - Like so many Italian restaurants in North Texas, Pastafina in Cleburne is actually owned and run by Albanians.

The Halilis are Kosovar Albanians, especially thankful for their customers and for America itself, because both helped members of the Halili family survive the Kosovo war.

Papa Gino sits with sons Gino, Nick and Jimmy, who run five Pastafina restaurants.

During the war in Kosovo, the boys lost contact with their parents for two months, not knowing if they were alive or dead, because so many relatives and friends were killed.

The Halilis escaped with thousands of other refugees.

While on assignment in 1999, we found them in an apartment in Tirana, Albania. Their sons supported them with proceeds from their restaurants, which kept them out of refugee camps.

After the war, the Halili's sons brought them to Texas.

"Ever since we came to this country, this country has been good to us," Nick Halili said.

So this Thanksgiving, they decided to share their gratitude by inviting customers to a free turkey dinner.

"We appreciate always what they did for us," Jimmy said, "And we are here to do whatever we can today."

"The United States helped our country," Nick said. "We like the people here. We were able to build businesses here. So we're just trying to give something back."

The Halilis are all U.S. citizens now, savoring her gifts and customs more than many, especially Thanksgiving.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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