Talking shop with Nick and Angegiki Sakarelos

Monday, August 15, 2011
Angegiki and Nick Sakarelos in front of the recently reopened Grecian steakhouse in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

Nick and Angegiki Sakarelos came to Southeast Missouri from Greece in search of the American dream. In 1983, the couple bought the Grecian Steak House in Cape Girardeau. The restaurant recently reopened after undergoing 10 months of extensive renovations to repair damage from a devastating fire in September. The fire was caused by a compressor in the salad bar.

Q: How did you end up in Cape Girardeau from Greece?

A: Nick Sakarelos: We came from Nafpaktos, Greece, for the American dream. I was 24 and my wife she was 18. We were friends with the owner, Nick Zaharopoulos of The Grecian in Sikeston. He was from our same town in Greece. He was the best man at our wedding. We worked there from 1978 to 1983, then bought this restaurant from him. This community has been good to us. The customers have been good to us. Without my people I wouldn't be here. They keep us in business.

Q: Is it difficult working together as a family?

A: Nick Sakarelos: We've always worked together. We have two children, one has his own restaurant, Grecian Steak House in Dyersburg, Tenn. The other is a senior at SEMO and works here. It's a family business. Sometimes it's good and sometimes it's bad. You've got to balance things. Sometimes you don't listen to your mom and dad like you'd listen to somebody else.

Q: Tell us about the history of the Grecian.

A: Nick Sakarelos: This business is the oldest restaurant in Cape. It's been here since October 1969.

Q: How has the restaurant business changed over the years?

A: Nick Sakarelos: The way we grew up in Greece, hospitality was very big. Now people get it at the drive-thru and they want more for less. In business, it's getting tougher all the time. Competition. You've got to keep up with everything.

Q: What makes a restaurant successful?

A: Nick Sakarelos: The atmosphere, a nice, good, clean restaurant. You've got to have good food, but they've got to feel comfortable when they come to the place, too.

Q: How did you react when you learned your restaurant was on fire?

A: Nick Sakarelos: It was about 3:30 in the morning. I was sleeping and the phone was ringing. Then I saw my wife, she jumped. She said, "The Grecian is on fire." Then she put her pants on and she left. Myself, I'm pretty cool. As long as people are OK, you can rebuild whatever it is. We had a tough time though. I didn't want to move. I like where I am.

Q: What's changed since your renovation?

A: Nick Sakarelos: Everything here is brand new. What was left after the fire was four walls and half of the roof. That's all that stayed here. I don't have the salad bar and buffet anymore. We have plate lunches now for what used to be on the buffet. We still serve soup and salad.

Q: Your menu has many American favorites, but you feature several Greek dishes too. Can you describe them?

A: Angegiki Sakarelos: We have pastitso, it's like lasagna, but with cream sauce on the top. We have moussaka, made with layers of sliced eggplant and zucchini and ground beef. Also with cream on the top. We make cabbage rolls and stuffed peppers and spaghetti with Greek meatballs. They have a little different spices. Sometimes we make lamb and rice. These are family recipes from Greece. We serve mostly American food, but I like to mix these in as the specials. I've always liked to cook.

Nick Sakarelos: She is a great cook. She needs to open a restaurant. She'd probably put me out of business.

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