WOODSTOCK – As Greek immigrants, Dennis Paloumbis and Peter Mourelatos knew very little English when in 1975 they bought the building that later would become Angelo’s Family Restaurant.
But an unrivaled work ethic, and faithful patronage propelled them through nearly four successful decades in an industry known as much for its demands as its instability.
The brothers-in-law learned to speak English in the restaurant that sat at the corner of Van Buren and Dean streets for 39 years.
Paloumbis, 79, and Mourelatos, 67, retired in December. The decision to hang it up was bittersweet for the brothers-in-law. They both came to know and love their customers, the town. Each raised their families between the booths and tables
“It’s hard to let it go because it’s been a part of our lives,” said Angelo Mourelatos, Peter’s son who managed the restaurant when illness and old age began to get the better of his uncle and father.
“This restaurant raised two families over 39 years,” said Paloumbis, through a thick Greek accent.
The restaurant was sold in early December to George Kanakaris, a fellow restaurateur.
Kanakaris, of Huntley, will re-open the restaurant later this month as Papa G’s.
But not before a little facelift.
Paloumbis explained that Angelo’s is only a shadow of what it was when he and Peter bought it. It was half of its current size – in the mid-1980s they bought a neighboring woman’s dress store to expand.
It wasn’t until the Food Network star Robert Irvine brought demo and design crews would the building get another transformation. “Restaurant: Impossible” revamped the restaurant in three days in April for an episode of the reality TV show, which aired in June.
But, as it turns out, all that glitters is not gold. At first, the renovation and publicity brought in a new customer base curious about the changes.
But the shine quickly wore off.
“Some changes didn’t go over well,” Angelo Mourelatos said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But it made it feel like the restaurant wasn’t there’s anymore.”
Kanakaris plans to close the restaurant for 10 days to remodel.
“You can’t remodel a restaurant in three days,” he said.
Now that he’s officially retired, Paloumbis says he will spend six months here, and six months in Kefalonia, Greece. Peter Mourelatos will spend time with family and grandchildren.
After 39 years, Paloumbis couldn’t nail down just one story as a favorite.
“I could talk to you for hours, there are so many stories,” he said. “The best story for me is Woodstock, I love the town, I love the people.
“If you love the people, you never have to work.”
Contrary to popular belief, Angelo’s Family Restaurant was not in the movie ‘Groundhog Day.’ Hollywood producers asked to shoot the diner scenes there, but needed uncharted access to the restaurant. It would have been a huge blow to Angelo’s bottom line.
“They ordered food here to bring over [to the set],” said Dennis Paloumbis, longtime owner of Angelo’s.