“There’s no such thing as a ‘normal day,’” says Costa Theodorogiannis, owner of Angelo’s Steak and Pancake House. Costa now operates the restaurant his father, Angelo Theodorogiannis, opened in 1984. “Sometimes I have a 4:30 am to 11:30 pm day. I’m wherever I’m needed—including cooking in the kitchen.” On his “day off,” Costa catches up on paper work.
Angelo still comes in every day and enjoys a Greek meal, such as cooked spinach with feta. He likes being a part of the daily operations and often acts as a handyman. “This has been my life. Where else would I go?” he asks. “My father has my back,” adds Costa.
Angelo came to America in 1974 from Karpenisi, Greece. His brother Nick (now deceased) was already here and persuaded him to join the family business. Initially, the brothers had a restaurant in Smithfield, then another in Yorktown. Angelo opened the current restaurant with his brother. They promised “good food at a fair price.” According to their website, this creed, plus long hours and hard work, has been the secret to success. Employees are loyal. One has been with them for 30 years.
Now a local landmark, the restaurant is undergoing some remodeling. The parking lot has been expanded to accommodate the overflow crowds, especially on Sundays. A banquet room seats up to 120 people. For groups, the complete menu is available.
“We saw an immediate increase in business with the installation of the LED sign,” says Costa. “Renovating while staying open has been a challenge. Our customers have been patient and appreciative,” he says. “It seems that once we started making changes, we couldn’t stop. Of course, an older building always needs repairs.”
Angelo’s menu is extensive. It includes salads, soups and sandwiches. Subs are “overstuffed.” Steaks are hand cut daily. Hamburger is freshly ground and never frozen. “We use only fresh ingredients,” says Costa. The “Italian” section includes “Greek” spaghetti. A large breakfast selection includes pancakes, and they are available gluten free. In fact, there is a separate gluten-free menu. Country-style steak and meatloaf add a “down home” flair.
What about Greek food? These items are scattered through the menu: Greek salad, hamburger steak, omelet, burger and baklava. A signature dessert is the baklava sundae. “Our recipes and preparation have not changed over the years,” says Costa.
Costa graduated from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, with a degree in government and international politics and a minor in business. “My father did not expect me to join the family business. There was never any pressure on me,” says Costa. “Of course, I grew up helping out. I washed dishes for seven years. The restaurant was a second home. Our ‘family dining table’ was here, so it was natural for me to join my father.”
Costa, who is single, has two older sisters in other careers. There is a large extended family. Many have “put in time” at the restaurant. “We have family gatherings at the restaurant and also in family homes. On holidays we go way out of bounds. You could feed an army with our leftovers,” says Costa.
Obviously Costa eats at the restaurant daily. “Sometimes I cook something simple in the kitchen.” His “go-to” meal is a Greek salad and a fresh-ground hamburger steak. What about Costa’s home kitchen? “It looks untouched,” he says. When he entertains at home, he usually prepares pastitsio. For holidays, lamb on the spit is the favorite choice. “Preparing Greek food is time consuming,” Costa admits, “but it’s the best.”
Costa works at the Greek Festivals in Newport News. Angelo covers at the restaurant. “In many ways the festival is more work than the restaurant,” says Costa. “Lots of baking, mixing, hustling,” he adds. “I work with family and friends. There is great camaraderie.” As a child, he was one of the dancers.
The movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding was about 60 percent accurate, according to Costa. “Of course, many things were greatly exaggerated, but I did enjoy the movie,” he says with a grin.
Is it “all work” for Costa? “Sometimes I can prearrange a few days off. I like to go to the Outer Banks with friends. Of course, I check in to make sure everything is all right here,” he says. “I also enjoy playing golf and fishing.” Costa has been to Greece a few times. He does speak Greek. What is he planning next? “I am always ‘planning’,” he says, “but I have nothing definite in mind for now. Someday I would like to visit Australia or Alaska. And I really like Vegas!”
Costa isn’t immune to stress. “I try to prepare for worst-case scenarios so there are no surprises. It has gotten easier over the years. There is a fitness center next door and I have a personal trainer. This has been helpful and enjoyable.”
Though he has a busy schedule, Costa is happy with the ever-changing character of his business. “It’s never dull,” he says. “And I enjoy getting to know my regular customers and being able to call them by name.”
TO THE POINT
Angelo’s Steak and Pancake House
Address: 755 J. Clyde Morris Blvd., Newport News VA 23601
Owners: Angelo and Costa Theodorogiannis