Opening — and then expanding — a restaurant in Northeast Pennsylvania meant the fulfillment of the American dream for Angie and Steve Kapires.
The Athens, Greece, natives originally opened Greek American Grill on Scranton-Carbondale Highway in 2014, but they quickly outgrew the eight-table venue and moved 5 miles down the road to their current spot by May 2015.
“We started small because we didn’t know the area,” Angie Kapires said. “But word of mouth is the best advertising, and people have been kind like that.”
The Kapireses made their way to 540 Scranton-Carbondale Highway, Dickson City, by way of New York, where they each immigrated to at young ages, met and worked. The move to Northeast Pennsylvania — on the recommendation of friends — allowed the couple to buy a home and enjoy what they consider a country lifestyle and better standard of living.
Now married 40 years, the Kapireses have perfected their management system: He acts as the main cook in the kitchen, while she keeps order in the front of the house.
“My husband is old-school. This is his passion. He likes good food,” she said. “We both want to make sure people are satisfied when they come in. In New York, we cater to different people — Italian, Jewish, Greek, everyone.”
This was the thinking behind the blending of American diner classics with traditional ethnic dishes for the breakfasts, lunches and dinners served daily. At the top of the day, Pancake Deluxe (served with two eggs and choice of meat) and Hungry Man platter (complete with three eggs, three meats, homefries and toast) are popular requests. The array of omelettes all are prepared with three eggs each, while the bagels and lox come in portions for parties of one to three.
The restaurant offers daily lunch and dinner specials, though staple menu items such as the Greek Sampler for Two (made with “all the meats we have, plus hummus, stuffed grape leaves and pita bread,” Angie Kapires explained) and the Greek meatballs made with mint stay in high demand.
Gyro platters and sandwiches make up 95 percent of the business, she added, while the pastichio; moussaka; lamb shanks with minestra; roasted chicken with apple stuffing, potato and gravy; Shrimp Santorini and Haddock Spetsiota round out the traditional side of the menu. Grilled octopus is a big seller (“Who knew?” Angie Kapires said with surprise), and years of practice resulted in perfected eggplant and chicken Parmesans.
“His sauce is what does it,” Angie Kapires said of her husband’s cooking. “His marinara, people say they can drink it.”
And his Seafood Fra Diavolo makes “people go crazy because my husband makes it spicy,” she added. The Broiled Fisherman Platter, meanwhile, offers a “little bit of everything for every taste bud” thanks to its generous portions of shrimp, scallops, filet, stuffed clams, stuffed tomatoes and stuffed mushrooms.
“The Mediterranean diet is light to eat, and people like that,” Angie Kapires noted, though Greek American Grill certainly doesn’t skimp on the homemade desserts, either. The display case boasts colorful platters of rich treats such as baklava cheesecake, old-fashioned rice pudding and bread pudding, Galaktoboureko (phyllo dough and custard with simple syrup) and Ek Mek (shredded phyllo and custard with almonds, simple syrup and homemade whipped cream).
A kids’ menu also is available, as is catering for all occasions.
And while the menu reflects the flavors of Greece — from the soft spices to the prevalence of lemon juice, olive oil and oregano — the restaurant’s interior also was designed to evoke a Mediterranean vibe.
“I was trying to show people part of Greece,” Angie Kapires said, pointing to framed photos of the island Naxos, where her husband’s parents are from; the Acropolis and boats on crystal-clear water. “That’s how beautiful Greece is.”
Olive trees and fishers’ nets covered with seashells also figure into the decor, and windows painted on the walls are meant to mirror the outdoor eateries popular in Greece. The overall effect feels cozy and welcoming.
“Family atmosphere is a big deal,” Angie Kapires said. “The servers I have are very good to customers, and a good server goes a long way. It feels like home, and they call them by name and remember what they like. It’s small enough (that) I can go around. Feedback helps a lot in running a business. We’re here every day, morning to night.”
By spring, Greek American Grill will grow again thanks to an expansion of a sunroom it will use for private parties and which will increase the restaurant’s seating from 100 to 140.
The hard-earned success is the epitome of the American dream realized, the couple agreed.
“We tried for many years to get people to try ethnic food, and in America, you can do that,” Angie Kapires said. “Scranton took us in and has been very supportive. They help us. I feel the warmth. That’s nice as a business owner. It’s a nice community. I’m happy I came here.”
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