BRADENTON, FLA. – Haralambos “Bobby” Stamatopoulos, is a seasoned veteran of the restaurant business. He owned and operated several diners and restaurants in Michigan before moving here where he plans to open his first home style Greek restaurant: Ellas.
The restaurant will serve authentic Greek cuisine with an emphasis on the use of extra virgin olive oil. The move to Florida was supposed to be a time of relaxation for the 53-year-old Stamatopoulos, who is originally from Christianoupolis in Southwestern Peloponnesos. He moved to the United States with his wife Fay in 1987 and settled in Detroit.
Exemplifying the American dream, Stamatopoulos worked his way up from washing dishes to opening his own diners and restaurants in Michigan.
His previous restaurants focused on American classics with a few Greek dishes on the menu, or Italian cuisine. The return to his culinary roots began last June when he and his family opened Olive Market, a Greek import market.
Driving past a vacant fast food restaurant in the area, Stamatopoulos dreamed of opening a Greek restaurant. He told the local Bradenton press, “My blood pushed me to open another restaurant.”
The aptly named Ellas, will use Greek ingredients when possible along with the extra virgin olive Stamatopoulos grew up eating every day. His native village reportedly produces 1,000 tons of olive oil every year pressed from the fine olives grown in the area.
The health benefits of olive oil and the Mediterranean diet are well known and Stamatopoulos is dedicated to promoting the use of Greek olive oil in the preparation of all the authentic Greek foods that will appear on the menu at Ellas.
As Stamatopoulos said, “If you eat real olive oil every day, you will see your life differently— I guarantee.” He went on to say, “Food should make you feel good.”
Stamatopoulos has signed a 10-year lease on the former fast-food location which has a drive-through window he plans on keeping for his new restaurant. Though the food will be served in a timely fashion, the quality ingredients and the care taken in the preparation will be as far away from “fast-food” as can be.
Through Olive Market, the restaurant will have access to imported Greek ingredients unheard of for most fast food restaurants. Gyros, souvlakia, spanakopita, pastitsio, moussaka, baklava, and rice pudding will be on the menu.
Stamatopoulos plans to keep prices relatively low with a meal averaging between $5 and $10. Plans for outdoor seating and Greek beer and wine on the menu are also in the works, once the proper permits and licenses are in order.
Local Greek business owner Vaso Rekkas who owns a Greek market nearby is pleased with the prospect of a new, authentic Greek restaurant in the area.
She said, “We all need a Greek restaurant here and I’m very happy they will open. Many people have asked me about a Greek restaurant. I’m very excited.” Stamatopoulos’ Ellas is scheduled to open in June.