MONTREAL – Le Grec in Trois-Rivieres, Montreal is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and owners Ioanna Yannopoulos and her brother Dimitris wanted to “do something special” for their staff by sending them on an all-expenses paid trip to the Dominican Republic, the Montreal Gazette reported.
Cindy Robert began waiting tables for Le Grec 19 years ago and told the Gazette, “When I heard about the trip, I couldn’t believe my ears. It’s just pure euphoria. These aren’t bosses like other bosses, they’re family. They give us gifts when our children are born, they give us bonuses when we buy a house, we play ball hockey together, they’re there through thick and thin. Their doors are always open. This is just confirming what everyone already knew about the owners.”
The restaurant will be closed anyway for renovations during the 10-day trip starting on January 6, CTV News Montreal reported, adding that according to the restaurant’s website, “the trip will be free for employees who have been part of the company for more than three years, and it will partially cover costs for employees who have served less than three years.”
The Yannopoulos siblings will likely pay thousands for the trip, but Ioanna Yannopoulos said, the Gazette reported, “We wanted to say thanks to our family of workers. We are sewn into the fabric of this community and into the lives of our workers. We’re a good gang and when we get down south it’ll be wild.”
“Le Grec was opened in 1959 by Catherine Xenos and Jimmy Dedopoulos, who then passed on the establishment to their nephew, Constant Yannopoulos, in 1995,” CTV News reported, adding that “in 2009, when he retired, Yannopoulos’ wife, Rachelle Montour, and their children, Ioanna and Dimitris, took over – the third generation to run the restaurant.”
The Athens-born Dedopoulos began making pizza at the restaurant in an effort to gradually introduce the locals to Greek cuisine including lamb, souvlaki, and other Greek favorites, the Gazette reported.
Yannopoulos told the Gazette that “she grew up in the restaurant, running around the tables and kitchen as her parents ran the show,” noting that when “she inherited the business in 2009” she “never forgot what made it a special place.”
Many of the employees at La Grec have spent at least a decade working there, two have been there for 41 years, the Gazette reported.
“I plan on finishing my days here. Before I worked here, my family came here for dinner every Sunday. It’s a staple in these parts,” Robert told the Gazette.
Daniel Carignan and his wife enjoy the pizza at Le Grec every Friday, the Gazette reported. “There’s nothing like it. I don’t know how to describe the pizza exactly, but it’s damn good,” Carignan told the Gazette.
The restaurant’s general manager Richard Morrisseau said, “It comes from Greece, don’t argue with the owners, pizza is Greek. And that’s the number one reason people come from far and wide: our pizza,” the Gazette reported.
Le Grec “is also famous for keeping sheep on the property in honor of a pet lamb Dedopoulos kept while growing up in Greece,” the Gazette reported, adding that “it is eccentric, yes, but customers also flock to the flock and largely know the story of Dedopoulos’s first lamb Panayotis.”
Named after the man who had given the lamb as an Easter gift, the lamb became a cherished pet when Dedopoulos couldn’t let the animal be slaughtered, the Gazette reported adding that “today, the restaurant’s logo is a drawing of Panayotis’ head.”
“Our parents and grandparents did their best to preserve our Greek heritage. There was a [Greek Orthodox] priest who would come give a service every month and we used to have Greek classes on Sundays. There was a pretty thriving Greek community in the ’60s and ’70s. At first, my great uncle Jimmy, he had to ease his way into the market. But now we’re seeing clients whose grandparents were clients here. We are a part of this community and they’re a part of ours,” said Yannopoulos, the Gazette reported.