October 12, 2011

The Souvlaki House that Papachryssanthou Built

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This is the third article of a series profiling the oft-unrecognized personalities of Cornell and Ithaca.

While Collegetown businesses have come and gone, The Souvlaki House, located on Eddy Street, has been a steady fixture in the Ithaca culinary scene for more than 40 years. Its charismatic owner, Peter Papachryssanthou, has played a large part in its success.

Papachryssanthou emphasized the importance of hard work and diligence in ensuring the restaurant’s success. Despite being the owner of the restaurant, he works every day from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., managing the restaurant and completing various tasks when needed.

“I can do everything. If the dishwasher does not show up, then I can do it,” he said, with his signature Greek accent.

Papachryssanthou was raised near Yale University and his parents owned a restaurant close to campus. He followed the example of his parents and built his own restaurant near an Ivy League university.

“I like to deal with people who are coming from good families,” he said. “I chose Cornell because I liked the area, and I have been very happy with the environment here.”

Papachryssanthou said he has never had any  issues with his business and attributes its success to consistent, quality food. According to Papachryssanthou, all of the meals served at Souvlaki House are made daily from scratch.

“The kids [at Cornell] have been to the best restaurants in the world, and they know about food. You cannot fool them,” Papachryssanthou said.

He said that losing one customer could lead to losing service from that person’s entire sorority or fraternity in the future. With this in mind, he strives to maintain an atmosphere of respect and honesty within the restaurant, he said.

“I am from the old school, and my family eats the same food that we serve,” Papachryssanthou said.

According to Papachryssanthou, because of the consistency and quality of the food at Souvlaki House, the restaurant has not only been frequented by Cornell students but from locals and people throughout the region.

“I have a lot of regulars — local people who know about food and appreciate food. On a Saturday night, for example, you’ll see a lot of families here from Syracuse and Binghamton who drive an hour to eat fresh food [at our restaurant],” Papachryssanthou said.

Although he works long hours each day at the restaurant, Papachryssanthou said he does not regret his decision to open the restaurant, and he savors the personal relationships he has built with customers.

“I love what I’m doing. When we have a customer walk out saying, ‘Peter, we’ll see you soon,’ I’m incredibly satisfied,” Papachryssanthou said.

Original Author: Cindy Huynh