It has been in the works for six months but a new restaurant has opened in the former Dolce Vita location in Southgate Centre.
A trio of partners with an extensive background in the restaurant industry introduced traditional Greek cuisine with the launch of Orestes Greek Kouzina in December.
Manager Ricardo Munoz, chef Pedro Sarmatzis and business partner Peter Paraskevopoulos were most recently owners of a Nanaimo restaurant and together bring a variety of experience and backgrounds to Port Alberni.
Originally from Chile, Munoz studied architecture there before moving to Toronto to acquire an education in engineering. He worked in mining off and on in various parts of B.C., including Vancouver Island.
“I was in school in Toronto and was invited to Vancouver for Christmas,” Munoz said. “I asked myself what I was doing in Toronto and moved to Vancouver. I started in mining and exploration right away.”
He switched to the restaurant industry and for the past 20 years, has owned and managed eateries and night clubs in Vancouver, where he met Sarmatzis.
Along with Paraskevopoulos, they opened a Greek restaurant in Nanaimo.
The recipes originate from Sarmatzis’s family, from whom he was influenced. Born in Corinth, Greece, his family immigrated to Canada when he was four years old and opened a restaurant in the Okanagan Valley. He was trained from a young age and started from the bottom. He eventually completed his chef training.
“I got thrown into the fire early,” he said.
When he completed college, he and his brother went into business with a pizza restaurant in the Okanagan.
From there, he opened a Greek restaurant in Lethbridge, Alberta and one in Kelowna, BC. Until recently, the partners ran the restaurant in Nanaimo, but the three saw an opportunity to bring something new to Port Alberni.
“We saw a niche and bring good service and good food,” Munoz said.
The menu features traditional Greek cuisine, as well as pizza.
The restaurant has seating for 58, but by next Christmas season, the three expect to have the additional space next door available for banquets and private gatherings. When they purchased the building in the summer, extensive renovations began.
“We did a total overhaul,” Sarmatzis said.
Orestes Greek Kouzina, at the corner of Gertrude Street and Southgate Road, is open Tuesday to Friday, noon to 10 p.m. and Saturday to Monday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.