Spanikopita. Tzatziki. Galaktoboureko.
It’s all Greek to patrons of Main Street Diner – but they keep coming back for more every month.
For nearly four years, the diner at 1313 W. Main St., Grove City, has been offering the popular Greek Night one weekend a month, which is happening again from 2 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Greek food not generally on the menu is served, as well as Main Street’s usual menu. The special evenings celebrate the heritage of the Neofotistos family who have run the business for 20 years.
“I like it here,” said regular Cindy Homan of Grove City. “It’s always been friendly.”
She had known about Greek Night, but last month was the first time she tried Greek food. “I’ll try most anything,” she said. “It was wonderful. I really liked it a lot.”
Homan’s first Greek meal was roasted lamb, Greek fries, avogolemono – a chicken-based, egg-lemon soup – and the spanakopitakia, which is a spinach/cheese mixture in layers of buttered, paper-thin dough (called phyllo) used in many Greek recipes.
Regulars Terry and Darlene Coursen of Barkeyville like the Greek flavors, which are “not too spicy and not too hot,” Terry said.
And “the price is right,” his wife added.
Rick and Gina Blackburn of Grove City – along with their daughter Stevie, 6 – brought two friends, Tyler and Marissa Walter of Mercer, to Greek Night last month. The adults are educators, and attend the same church with their families.
Eager to try different foods, Tyler said he enjoyed the lamb dinner. However, his wife said she ordered the chicken Parmesan off the regular menu. “I’m a picky eater,” Marissa said. “I’m taking baby steps,” she added, and gave the spanakopitakia a try.
In 1996, the former Pappan’s Family Restaurant was bought and became Main Street Diner by Vasilios “Bill” Neofotistos, 63, and his wife, Kalliope “Kelly” Neofotistos, 60.
He had managed the Pappan’s – as well as another one of its chains in Shenango Township, Lawrence County – for 15 years before he became owner of the Grove City diner. “It’s great to me, business wise,” said the New Castle man. “It’s a nice area here.”
“We do have 75 percent loyal customers. We’re very fortunate,” said his son, Constantinos “Deno” Neofotistos, also of New Castle.
The family has loyal employees, like 43-year-old Stacy Ouly of Grove City, who has worked a total of 10 years at Main Street, making her the most seasoned employee.
“They treat me right,” she said. “I love the family.”
Deno became a partner in the business in January “and on paper have taken over,” he added. His education and previous jobs included management.
He began the Greek nights four years ago after getting on-board full time with the family business. Greek Night has mainly grown by word of mouth, he noted.
“The first six months lead to growth for the next three-and-a-half years,” Deno said. “It’s something new and different (locally) that took off.”
His sister, Afrodete Gentis, 39, of Warren, Ohio, also helps with Greek Night. “Dad does meats and rice; Mom, baklava and desserts,” Deno added. “It’s a team-work effort.”
Deno and Afrodete can also be seen setting up for events like the local Chamber’s annual trade show.
They also served this past weekend during the Chamber’s Foodie Fest during Saturday’s annual Autumn Art Walk downtown.
Deno hoped Greek Nights would draw back patrons to try the diner’s regular menu – which has homestyle foods as well as a few Greek items.
When Homan’s friend visits from Pittsburgh, he always want to eat meatloaf at the diner, she said.
“Everything we make here is homemade,” Neofotistos said.
His wife is at the diner almost every day to open, and do prep work and make soups, sauces and other foods.
Deno and Afrodete also have a brother, Petros Neofotistos, an engineer in Pittsburgh. “All the kids worked with me in high school and college,” said their dad, a grandfather of eight.
Deno said he couldn’t have taken over the business without his parents’ help.
“They came here with nothing, built a life and raised a family,” he said. “We are proud of them and they have given to us more than we could ever give them.”
The Neofotistos emigrated from Greece to New Castle in 1976, when she was pregnant with Deno. She had family in New Castle and Neofotistos has a brother in Hermitage.
“Everyone else is in Greece,” the elder Neofotisto said, adding he is one of eight siblings and grew up in Athens.
The former construction worker in Greece went into the restaurant business because he couldn’t speak English and had friends in the trade willing to help him.
“I learned a lot of things,” Neofotistos said of working in restaurants.
Greek Night started one evening with 30 people and has grown to two evenings each month with about 300 patrons – especially when Grove City College is in session, Deno said.
“We needed this on weekends to get the Grove City College students to check it out,” Ouly said. “Deno mixed some things up with fresh, new eyes and business has picked up.”
Since the business has grown, the restaurant has seen a number of interior upgrades, Deno added.
“I wish it would be more than a weekend a month,” Mr. Blackburn said of Greek Night, noting how much their family loves the food and have enjoyed introducing it to many friends.
The two days of Greek menu items take two weeks of preparation, Deno said.
“It’s a lot of work for me,” his father added, having been recently spoiled by semi-retirement.
Being semi-retired means working 40 hours a week, which is half of his prior full-time schedule.
“This is a piece of cake,” he said, smiling.
His affable 40-year-old son can be seen talking and sitting with patrons, and giving tasty samples.
“I like doing it, talking to people coming in, making friendships,” Deno said. “I like trying different things and meeting new people. I enjoy marketing.”