A local legacy
Dinos Pavlounis and his mother Pitsa Pavlounis will welcome customers to Louis’ Restaurant for the 40th anniversary on Fri., June 15. Sawyer Helmer photo
Kalynn Sawyer Helmer
CHESTERVILLE – On Fri., June 15, Louis’ Restaurant in Chesterville will celebrate their 40th anniversary. Opened on the same day in 1978, by Louis and Panagiota “Pitsa” Pavlounis, the restaurant has become a local favourite to many.
Louis’ son Dinos, who now operates the restaurant after Louis’ passing, explained, that at age 18 Louis came to Canada from Greece with half a suitcase and $20 in his pocket. He wound up in Perth, where he got a job working as a dishwasher in a local restaurant. Louis chose Perth, Dinos said because “Greeks follows Greeks,” and Louis probably knew someone who got him the job.
Four years later, Pitsa turned 18 and her father encouraged her to move to live with her sisters in Montreal. Her brother-in-law happened to work with Louis at the time and the pair were introduced. Pitsa, who had worked in a factory in Montreal and then started waitressing, became interested in making pizzas and other dishes. She was brought into the kitchen and slowly began her culinary education.
After working and owning a portion of Winchester’s Country Kitchen for about six years, the couple decided it was time for a restaurant all their own. Dinos who was eight at the time says he remembers the day of the deal very well. There was only one lawyer who went back and forth on the day of the deal to make amendments. Once the place was Louis’, Dinos said he took over right away. “My dad stayed up all night that night, I remember, to open up the restaurant for 7 a.m. the next morning and he had it ready to go. He took everything out of the cooler, so he could start from scratch.”
It wasn’t smooth sailing for the couple however, they were paying a 25 per cent interest rate on their loan while also figuring out how and what to serve their clientele. Louis had picked up a lot during his time in other kitchens and his recipes are still heavily featured in the menu today. Pitsa recalled offering frog legs and surf and turf on the first menu, but there was no one interested. The couple soon realized their customers wanted great home cooked meals like lasagna and chicken parmesan. So the menu was amended and a loyal customer base was born.
“I continue with my Dad’s recipes. I don’t tweak his recipes but some of the ones that I invent I will tweak but often end up going right back. I learned his from a very young age and he learned from going from restaurant to restaurant. He’d pick up things and that’s how he made his own recipes; learning from other people where he worked. His recipes have stuck and they are not written anywhere except for up here,” Dinos said, pointing to his head. “And that was my biggest complaint growing up but I can relate now too because I do the same thing.”
While the main menu has remained the same, Louis, Pitsa and Dinos have all tried introducing new things. As for the actual building, the couple did renovations in 1980 and turned the upstairs into apartments. It was renovated once more in 2002 and Dinos said they hope to do a few touch-ups this year.
Over the years, the family has become a staple in the community and they find that a lot of their customers are well-known faces now. “We know most of them by name. It’s nice because it’s like a family. We know the people and they are nice people,” said Pitsa. These days, not everyone is familiar and for Dinos, he said it was nice to serve the out of towners and new customers. “Years ago we knew most [customers] by name but now it’s not quite the same. It’s kind of nice to be able to have that relationship with the locals but then have people that come in who are new faces,” he said.
Both old and new customers will be welcomed on Friday to celebrate. In the morning, Dinos said they plan to have free coffee and desserts along with a cake cutting ceremony. After 11 a.m. the restaurant will be offering a 20 per cent discount for the day.