Italian restaurant king Pietro Addis has said thank you to Brighton and Hove by donating a massive £40,000 to The Argus Appeal.

Mr Addis sacrificed a giant retirement party in favour of a donation to one of his favourite charities so he could give something back to the community.

His generous leaving present means needy people living in Sussex will be getting extra help and support.

Mr Addis is handing over the running of Brighton and Hove city centre establishments Donatello, Pinocchio and Fat Leo to business partner and former wife Sue and their three sons.

He announced the details of his donation at a special lunch for appeal trustees at Donatello yesterday.

Mr Addis, 65, said: "I have been successful here with my business and wanted to say thank you to the people of Brighton and Hove.

"I have always supported The Argus Appeal as every penny raised goes to help local people, communities and groups.

"It seemed to be the best way possible to give something back to the brilliant people here."

Sue and the rest of the family had been making plans for a huge party to mark Mr Addis's retirement but when they sat down and talked about it he said he would prefer to make the donation instead.

Mr Addis, who was born on the Italian island of Sardinia, spent 13 years working at the Italian Embassy in London, promoting his country's food and wine.

He met Sue in the capital and in 1967 founded parent company Pietro Addis and Sons.

The couple moved to Brighton in 1975 and opened the Market Wine house.

After the wine bar, they ran Topolino in Hove and Peter's in The Lanes before getting their big break with Pinocchio in New Road, Brighton.

This was followed over the years by Donatello and more recently Fat Leo.

Mr Addis and Donatello have supported the appeal and donated thousands of pounds over the years.

For several years they have provided space for the Santa's grotto in the fairytale house next to Donatello.

Appeal co-ordinator Elsa Gillio said: "We are overwhelmed by this magnificent contribution, which is the biggest single donation we have had in the 47 years the appeal has been going.

"Because we are a non-specific charity it means we can help a wide variety of good causes but it does mean we can miss out on things like legacy donations.

"Over the last four years we have doubled the money we are able to raise due to the continued support of our sponsor, Legal and General.

"We get large amounts through fund-raising events during the year but to have a large donation like this given to us is wonderful and a great present for the community.

"Every penny will go back into the community and we invite applications from individuals and organisations to apply for funding from The Argus Appeal."

Martyn Willis, managing director of Newsquest (Sussex) Ltd and chairman of The Argus Appeal trustees, said: "The trustees are absolutely overwhelmed by Pietro's generosity.

"Pietro and Sue have been fantastic supporters of ours over the years and, of course, we hope Sue and her sons will continue with that support for many years to come.

"In the meantime I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of The Argus Appeal trustees to wish Pietro a long and happy retirement."

The £40,000 donation tops a successful and busy year for the appeal, which so far has raised more than £150,000.

One of the fund-raising highlights of the year was the appeal's second South Downs Way challenge when more than 160 cyclists rode 105 miles from Beachy Head to Winchester, raising £34,000.

Other supporters over the year have included XPS Print Ltd in Portslade, which recently donated £2,000 during its annual staff party at the Coral Stadium in Hove.

Managing director Graham Nicholas has challenged co-director Greg Roach to give up smoking until April 1, when he will donate another £1,000 to the appeal - if Mr Roach fails, he will have to give £100.

Browns Restaurant and Bar in Brighton reopened with a gala event in August and raised £1,000, while another £1,000 came from a charity night at the Coral Brighton and Hove Greyhound Stadium in Hove organised by Gala Bingo.

Other events included the annual charity golf contest at East Brighton Golf Club, which raised more than £5,000.

The fund-raising competition was organised by Phil Graves, of estate agents Graves Jenkins, with help from Mark Stuart-William, from the golf club.

Travelcare branches in London Road, Brighton, and New Road, Durrington, Worthing, are regular supporters, collecting sackfuls of toys from customers and staff.

The cast of last year's panto at Brighton's Theatre Royal held a bucket collection at the end of every performance and raised £3,000.

The appeal teamed up with the Odeon, Brighton, to stage a preview screening of the hit Disney blockbuster The Incredibles, which raised more than £1,000.

Forty schools across Brighton and Hove took part in the Big Schools Concert at the Brighton Centre, while the annual Christmas Concert at All Saints Church in Hove raised more than £12,000 to be divided between the appeal and the Martlets Hospice in Hove.

More than £1,200 was raised at a pre-Christmas breakfast and party for children featuring a singalong with Santa at Donatello.

And this week advertising staff at The Argus donned fancy dress and took to the streets of Brighton, with the amount raised easily running into four figures.

The appeal also took advantage of a donation of two front-seat tickets to a Will Young concert by auctioning them for £401.

The Argus Appeal pledges to relieve sickness, poverty, hardship and in particular to provide funds for benefits of all sorts in cash and in kind, particularly at Christmas, for lonely and needy old people and underprivileged children and any other person considered appropriate by the trustees.

It has been making a difference to people in Sussex since 1957 and vows that every penny raised goes to those in need. All administration costs are met by The Argus.

During 2004 it has made more than 100 donations to a variety of good causes and delivered more than 1,200 food hampers.

It has also provided funds to a number of clubs for the elderly, bought and donated minibuses, supported more than 30 Christmas parties, paid for holidays for disabled children and provided special equipment for disabled and sick children and adults.

It has also helped set up support groups for people with special needs.

Amounts given and the causes helped during 2004 vary hugely.

They range from a £100 donation to the Adur Learning Exchange for a new whiteboard for lip-reading classes to almost £5,000 towards a specially-adapted car for Archie Thompson, three, who suffers from a rare genetic disease which makes him grow too rapidly.

The appeal gave £700 to pay for cycling lessons for Jacob Potter-Hammond, eight, whose dyspraxia prevents his brain telling his limbs what to do quickly enough.

Proceeds of this year's Christmas grotto will go to the Pink Dolphin breast cancer appeal.