ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A beloved restaurant owner murdered a few months ago was honored Saturday night by family, friends, the City of Albuquerque, and the ballooning community. It was a special evening for a person no longer with us. Balloons and luminarias glowed at Arroyo del Oso Golf Course Saturday night in honor of Rosario Zito, a man missed by many in the community.

In August, Zito was shot and killed during a robbery outside of his restaurant, Giovanni’s Pizzeria, in southeast Albuquerque. “If you know anything about Italians, they break bread a lot. Conversing over the dinner table. It’s kind of missed today. He created that environment at Giovanni’s along with a great product,” said Zito’s brother-in-law, Todd Kersting.

Around 34 years ago, Zito’s brother-in-law helped start the Christmas Eve Hot Air Balloon Glow in Albuquerque. The family quickly made this a tradition each year. However, this year the glow meant much more. The family said they felt Rosario was there in spirit.

“That’s the way our family would be together on Christmas is that we would be here on Christmas eve with Todd. Not nestled under the fireplace, not nestled in front of the TV or the dinner table, but out here giving his support for Albuquerque,” said Zito’s wife, Dana Zito.

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Many paid tribute to Zito’s legacy Saturday evening including balloonists who brought their hot air balloons to light up the night.

“I think it’s definitely an experience. It’s a beautiful sight to see. I’ve always loved playing with balloons and it’s a magical thing,” said Zackery Maxwell-Griego, a Student Pilot.

Free golf clubs were given out to families who attended the glow, along with pizza vouchers for Giovanni’s.