Pizzerias gear up for fundraiser for slain officer’s family

For each pie, $5 will go to Diller family and first responder organizations


To help raise money for the family of fallen NYPD Officer Jonathan Diller, the Long Island community is doing what it does best — make pizza.

Pizzerias across Long Island are participating in an April 17 fundraiser to benefit the family of Diller, a Massapequa Park resident and Franklin Square native who was killed in the line of duty. He leaves behind a wife, Stephanie, and a 1-year-old son, Ryan. For every pizza pie sold at participating restaurants, $5 will be donated to support the slain officer’s family, as well as organizations that benefit law enforcement, such as Beyond the Badge NY, Project Thank-A-Cop and the Silver Shield Foundation.

Anthony Lombardo, owner of Lombardo’s of Seaford Pizzeria, said his restaurant is participating in the event, and hosted its own fundraiser, donating 15 percent of last week’s earnings to the Diller family. Lombardo said the pizzeria is excited to participate and help out any way it can.

“My heart broke for his wife and kids,” Lombardo said. “I have two brothers-in-law in law enforcement in Nassau County, so it hit home a little bit. It’s a sad thing.”

Diller, 31, was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Far Rockaway on March 25. The suspected gunman, Guy Rivera, 34, was a passenger in a car driven by Lindy Jones, 41, who refused to roll down the car’s windows during the stop. Jones, according to police, was arrested and charged with criminal possession of a gun after another firearm was found in the car. Police said Rivera, who was charged with first-degree murder, as well as attempted murder for trying to fire his gun at an NYPD sergeant on scene during the altercation, had at least 21 prior arrests, according to police officials.

Long Island Pizza Strong, which raises money to aid the community during a time of need, is organizing the April 17 event. The organization’s co-founder, Anthony Laurino, who is also owner of Phil’s Pizzeria & Restaurant in Syosset, announced on April 1 the fundraiser for Diller’s family. As of press time, more than 200 restaurants have signed up to participate, and Laurino said the list keeps growing.

“I don’t see any reason why every pizzeria wouldn’t want to do this,” Laurino said.

Laurino co-founded the pizza fundraiser with Alyssa Guidice, of LI Dine, and Jim Serpico, owner of Side Hustle Bread, last year to help the families of the victims of the Farmingdale High School marching band bus crash in September, which resulted in the deaths of 43-year-old band director Gina Pellettiere and 77-year-old retired social studies teacher Beatrice Ferarri.

As a member of the Farmingdale community, Laurino was deeply touched by the tragedy. His son was aboard one of the buses that was heading to band camp in Pennsylvania, but not the one that crashed. On the night of the bus crash, Laurino spoke with Guidice and Serpico, and Long Island Pizza Strong was founded.

“We took off like a bandit,” Laurino said. “We had 140 places involved, and we raised $102,200 for most of the people that were affected by it.”

Laurino said costumers have been supportive of the fundraiser for Diller’s family, and participating pizzerias are excited to raise money. Uncle Frank’s Pizza and Cocktails in Wantagh is one of the participating pizzerias, and manager Alexandra Gardner said her employees have been touched by Officer Diller’s story and want to show their support.

“A lot of our staff have family in law enforcement, and it’s an area that has a lot of cop families, so we all have ties to that,” Gardner said. “We definitely wanted to help out in any way that we can, show our support, and be there for the people in our community.”

Gardner said she grew up in Massapequa Park, where Diller lived, and the restaurant has hosted Christmas parties for Seventh Precinct police officers in Seaford.

“We’re just trying to get as much participation as we can, so we can really give as much as we can to the family,” Gardner said.

A member of the NYPD for three years, Diller had earned several honors, and was described by fellow officers at the 105th Precinct, where he worked, as a “cop’s cop.” He was posthumously promoted to detective first grade, which was announced by NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban at his funeral, held at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Massapequa on March 30.

Diller’s death became a national story, and numerous organizations have shown their support through generous donations. The New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, also known as Answer the Call, plans to give $50,000 to Diller’s widow and son, as well as a $10,000 annual stipend. Achiezer, a community resource center based in Lawrence and Far Rockaway, and the Jewish Community Council of the Rockaway Peninsula, have raised more than $16,000 to help Diller’s family.

Laurino said he hopes to organize more fundraisers with Long Island Pizza Strong and is looking forward to a huge turnout for Diller’s family.

“Hopefully, we get a half a million dollars, why not?” Laurino said of the April 17 fundraiser. “You can’t put an amount of money on the loss of somebody’s life.”

As of press time, Franklin Square restaurants that are participating include Cinelli’s Pizzeria and Chef Gigi’s Place of Franklin Square. In Elmont, those signed up to participate include King Umbertos of Elmont.

For more information, visit lipizzastrong.com.

Additional reporting by Nicole Wagner