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New York Lottery: Pizza shop owner wins $1M on birthday

Dimitrios Hatzisotiriou, a pizza shop owner from Lake Grove, was one of four Long Island and Queens lottery winners to accept oversized ceremonial checks totaling $13 million at a New York Lottery ceremony Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016, in Plainview. Credit: Newsday / Chris Ware

Michelle Nuzzi thought her eyes were failing her as she stared at the scratch-off lottery ticket on her kitchen table in Glen Head several weeks ago.

She put on a pair of glasses with a stronger prescription and pulled out a magnifying glass before the news hit that she had won millions from a Wild Bonanza Multiplier scratch-off.

“I saw number 49 and knew it matched the 49 on top,” Nuzzi, 73, said Thursday afternoon at a New York Lottery ceremony in Plainview, where she and two other winners were presented oversized checks totaling $13 million. “I started screaming, but no one was home to hear me!”

After her initial disbelief, Nuzzi, a regular lottery player, realized she had won the top prize — $5 million — but she waited until family members returned to share the news.

“I came home and she said ‘There’s something I have to tell you,’” said her daughter, Michelle Bonavita, 45, also of Glen Head. “We jumped, we screamed, we hugged.”

The elder Michelle and Dominic Nuzzi, her husband of 46 years, are splitting the winnings, with each receiving $1,654,500 after required withholdings, the lottery said.

“We have six grandchildren and three children, I’m sure we’ll come up with some good ideas,” Dominic Nuzzi, 75, said.

She’s also a previous winner, with her biggest earlier score a $60,000 Take 5 prize, the lottery said.

The Nuzzis weren’t the only players to get lucky. Lake Grove pizza shop owner Dimitrios Hatzisotiriou won $1 million on his 73rd birthday.

Hatzisotiriou was on his way to pay some bills earlier this month, but the bank was closed, he said. So he popped in to a nearby Lake Grove liquor store to wait it out and purchased some lottery scratch-offs to pass the time.

“I played a couple of scratches and I lost,” he said.

He bought one more $10 ticket before heading to the bank — a Holiday Millionaire scratch-off. He scratched, saw the matching numbers and “just started jumping up and down around the store.”

“I said ‘Ah, I got a big one,’ ” he said. “I put it in the machine and it said I was a big winner.”

Hatzisotiriou’s ticket was for the million-dollar top prize, to be paid out in a lump sum of $661,800 after withholdings, the lottery said.

Hatzisotiriou plans to use some of the money “to go home to Greece and see my mother and sister.” It will also help with the bills, he said.

He’s also a two-time winner, having nabbed a $56,000 Take 5 prize a few years ago, the lottery said. That time he bought a new car.

Ajit Rana, a 44-year-old store owner from Long Island City, was at Bayside Supply on Union Turnpike in Oakland Gardens, when he heard people talking about a winning ticket having been bought there.

“We were asking each other, ‘Do you have a ticket? Do you have a ticket?’ ” he said.

Then Rana remembered that he had a Cash4Life ticket, which he purchases regularly, and went to check the numbers.

Now he’s due to receive a thousand dollars a day for the rest of his life. That translates to an annual check of $227,410, after withholdings, the lottery said. The guaranteed minimum payout is $7 million.

Rana said he called his wife right away, but “she thought I was joking.”

He went home to show her the proof, and “we just kept checking the numbers over and over again. We were both just totally surprised!”

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