Dimitri Adamopolous is rolling the dice on opening a larger restaurant during the pandemic.
But he believes the extra space and larger kitchen will pay off, as restaurants adapt to the new era of social distancing and increasing takeout orders.
Adamopolous moved his Ithaka Greek Restaurant from the corner of Yates and Cook — where the writing was already on the wall for a future new development — to the former Millos restaurant at 716 Burdett Ave. downtown.
It had been shuttered for more than a year, but negotiations with owner George Mavrikos led to a new lease and major renovations, giving Ithaka a fresh start to reopen last month.
For Adamopolous, the math made sense.
His old place had 75 seats. With social distancing, it was down to about 35. And the small kitchen, measuring about 144 square feet, was at capacity and far too tight.
In the new location, 167 seats puts Ithaka at 80 seats in the new reality and the 1,000-square-foot kitchen gives him plenty of room to handle sit-down diners and increasing takeout orders.
“We had the option to throw in the towel and end three generations of Greek restaurants in my family … or take the chance,” says Adamopolous. “It was a tough decision to make, but we are happy to continue.”
A lot had to fall into place.
Adamopolous initially needed convincing, but he got plenty of support from his wife, Edith, and his parents, Athanasios and “Mama” Maria, who are silent partners, and other extended family members.
Negotiations with Mavrikos, a long-time family friend and a partner in the Romeo’s chain, were “tough but fair,” as the landlord had a strong desire to keep the property as a Greek restaurant. The location has been home to Greek cuisine for decades, including more than 20 years under the Biros family.
“We decided to bring it back with a new vision, and it felt right for all of us,” Adamopolous said.
He realizes there are challenges ahead, and he will have to rely almost entirely on locals as pandemic travel restrictions continue to tighten.
“Every business has challenges and all of us rely on locals to keep small independent businesses going,” said Adamopolous. “It means a lot to so many people. We have a 41-person staff here. I told them when we opened: ‘We bought a job here and we’re in this boat with you. We need everyone rowing.’
“So support from locals means everything.”
Adamopolous moved to Victoria in 2013 from Kenora, Ont., and with his family took over the former Passeros at Cook and Yates. They renamed the restaurant Ithaka after the Greek island and the kingdom ruled by Odysseus in Homer’s classic poem.
But at the heart of it, Ithaka to the Greeks essentially means “life is about the journey, not the destination,” said Adamopolous. “It means enjoy every moment.”