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Wikipedia entry: A kafenio typically serves various types of Greek coffee, including Greek coffee and frappé, as well as beer, retsina, and ouzo. Most kafenia provide meze or snacks and rarely serve full meals. Kafenia were traditionally family-run businesses and furnished simply. The walls are often whitewashed.


Kafenia often serve as social centers of the villages and islands where they are located. People socialize after work or play a game of cards.


Kafenio Greek Diner is an upbeat and modern version of the traditional Mediterranean cafe! Clean lines, rustic furniture, wholesome Breakfast, Salads, Wraps and Pasta with an emphasis on the flavors of the Mediterranean, refreshing and energizing beverages! Full Coffee and Espresso service w/ Craft beers and wine.

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In 2015, the year John Gianoulidis opened his first Kafenio in College Park, a disgruntled reviewer wrote, “I predict this restaurant will be out of business in less than a year.”


It’s now been four years, and the original Kafenio—an all-day Greek restaurant serving Greek-inspired breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner offerings—not only continues to thrive, but Gianoulidis is opening a second Kafenio at the Willis apartment complex in Avondale Estates.


It’s hard to put Gianoulidis down, and it’s even harder to hold him there.


“I keep standing back up,” he says.


It’s no surprise, considering his perseverance, that Gianoulidis identifies with Odysseus in Homer’s The Odyssey, a mural of which appears on one of the new Kafenio’s walls. It’s “standing back up” that’s pulled Gianoulidis from one entrepreneurial venture to the next since he left the real estate business in 2009 to be his own boss, starting with The Greek Gyros & Pizza (now closed) at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market.


And that’s his advice to any hopeful restaurateur seeking guidance: “Stand back up.” He won’t offer something concrete, like how to go about getting permits, the best locations to scout, how to choose an architect, or where to find a good contractor. In other words, he won’t tell someone what they think they want to hear. Instead, he’ll tell the truth as he knows it, and in the genuine, if brusque, way those who know him appreciate.

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“You’re going to have failures,” he says. “Everybody forgets something or messes something up. Focus on how to fix it.”


Work hard and move forward—it’s an attitude Gianoulidis says was inculcated in him by his Greek parents, who in 1963 left Athens for America to escape military rule. When they arrived in this country, they viewed the American Dream not as a big house, six cars, and their name in lights, but as the simple opportunity to work and receive something for their efforts. They compared it to being farmers, Gianoulidis says: “You plant, and you work, and you get something. It was the idea of the work ethic.”


Something else his parents taught him was that there’s no difference between life and business. That’s what makes Kafenio stand out: it isn’t a cold commercial venture separate from Gianoulidis’s “real life,” but is instead every bit a part of his life as are his friends.

There is between Gianoulidis and his restaurants evidence of mutual influence that is as observable as the tattoos on Gianoulidis’s arms, beginning with his attentiveness to his restaurants’ needs. He isn’t a stranger to his restaurant, one of those absent owners oft reviled on shows like “Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.” If a worker is ill and no replacement is available, Gianoulidis doesn’t demand the other employees, who have their own work to do, take up the slack. He fills in, himself.


This is due in large part to an early introduction to what it meant to be conscientious about one’s own business. As a child in the ‘70s, Gianoulidis did his homework at a corner table of his parents’ pizza place, Johnny’s Pizza, in Moosup, Conn. He learned a lot from watching his mother (whose tzatziki recipe is used at Kafenio). She didn’t ask people to do things that needed to get done. She did them, herself.


“Just because you’re the owner doesn’t mean you don’t do things like sweep, cook, or wash dishes,” Gianoulidis says. “If everyone else is busy, guess who’s going to do it? It’s going to be you.”

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The new Kafenio exemplifies Gianoulidis’s philosophy that business and life are not parallel entities, but an inextricable braiding together of people and place. In Greece, a Kafenio (café) is a community hub, a place for all people, no matter their background or appearance, to feel both invited and welcome. In that vein, because the Avondale location has a more active night life, Gianoulidis has included a full bar  with a carefully selected assortment of Greek and Mediterranean wines, along with a curated list of domestic craft beers and some imported beers, so “Mom and Dad can have a nice bourbon after work.”


He’s also gone against all practical advice by installing a Greek marble bar top rather than opting for something less porous, something more indestructible. And not because it’s authentically Greek, but for the very reason most would avoid it: it can be marked, stained. Gianoulidis says marble has life that synthetic materials lack; it interacts with the people who use it.


“When I go to Greece, I like sitting on these marble-top bars that have been there for two hundred years that have marks, that have lived. You bounce off of plastic, off synthetic things,” Gianoulidis says. “My passion is to create an environment. I’m not an artist, but this is my creation. I create a place where people can eat good food, have a drink, and feel welcome no matter what.”

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