The history and menu of the Greek Pizza Kitchen, Tarpon Springs
|October 2005 •|
• Page 17
Joe & Yasmin Pianese's
Greek Pizza Kitchen
by: Douglas Forde Simms
In the summer of 1979, after graduating from Paul Smith College, a two-year hotel and restaurant school in upstate New York, Joe Pianese began an internship at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Part of the course curriculum, the program was designed around the student and allowed them to gain management and culinary experience.
"A lot of my culinary talents blossomed there," he explains. "They took me out of the Magic Kingdom, where we were doing short-order type cooking and sent me over to the Contemporary Hotel, where I worked with German chefs in the banquet areas."
After graduating from FSU in 1981, Marriott Hotels hired him to work in their Contract Division and run the dining programs in colleges and universities and Senior Living Communities for 23 years. When he was 13, he went to the neighborhood luncheonette every Sunday morning, at 5:00 AM, and put the New York Times and Newsday together for five-dollars a day and breakfast. Then, one day, they let him cook breakfast and make sodas for customers. It was there he learned he enjoyed serving people and dreamed of one day owning his own restaurant.
After conferring with his wife, Yasmin, who he'd met at FSU when she was an undergraduate Education Major, and their three children, Maria, Louis, and Alexis, he left behind the security of corporate life.
"It is scary," Yasmin admits. "We did a lot of praying and fasting. Being a teacher, I had really no restaurant experience at all. We had to rely on Joe's expertise, because I had none to bring to the table. All three kids have been hugely supportive, as much as they possibly can with their school-work. Leaning on our faith was the key. If we didn't, we probably wouldn't be here."
"I felt it was about time," Joe continues. "I had the resources, and the experience. I said, 'Let's do it.' I put a business plan together of a concept which was the Greek Pizza Kitchen. We didn't have a restaurant, we didn't have a building, we didn't have anything."
After months of searching, they stumbled across a 100 year-old corner building, tucked away next to the old train depot on Tarpon Avenue, nestled in amongst the shops of the Historic Downtown Antique District.
"It was just a miracle," Yasmin says. "It's such a cute, charming little place. We didn't have to do a thing to it. We painted some walls, hung up some old family pictures, and old pictures of Tarpon Springs. The uniqueness of us sets us apart, and we are set apart, literally. There is no other Greek place up here.
"It's just like a Bistro out of SoHo," adds Joe. "And that's what we liked about it. The three elements that are in this building that are going to be transcended into the future development of our franchise will be the brick, the balcony, the wrought iron, and the Bistro look - the cedar wood."
The Greek Pizza Kitchen derives its name from the use of traditional Greek ingredients on pizza, and other less traditional recipes. "It's a combination of our background," Joe smiles. "I'm Italian, my wife is Greek".
The Greek Pizza Kitchen's Grand Opening in October, 2004, was an exciting time, according to Yasmin. "It was so great. People have been so supportive and keep bringing more and more people. And every time they come, they bring new people. It's almost like they take on their own personal mission to expose our restaurant to the public."
Joe agrees. "People come back here because this is just a feel good place. Yasmin is out in the dining room all the time, talking with customers, making sure that what they have, and what they've ordered, exceeds their expectations.
For more information, contact: The Greek Pizza Kitchen, 150 Tarpon Avenue, Tarpon Springs, Florida 34689-3452; Phone: 727-945-7337; Fax: 727-945-7557; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web: www. greekpizzakitchen.com