As a child, Pano Rizos was treated to a full-course Greek meal every day when he came home from school. Now, Rizos is bringing those authentic flavors to Henrietta with the opening of his restaurant, Opa! Authentic Greek Koozina, located at 1175 Jefferson Road. The restaurant opens Monday, Oct. 15.
As a child, Pano Rizos was treated to a full-course Greek meal every day when he came home from school.
“My parents were born and raised in Greece. They didn’t come to this country until shortly before I was born. So I grew up with the tastes and smells of authentic Greek food.”
Now, Rizos is bringing those authentic flavors to Henrietta with the opening of his restaurant, Opa! Authentic Greek Koozina, located at 1175 Jefferson Road. The restaurant opens Monday, Oct. 15.
Rizos, a 2004 graduate of – where else? – Greece Olympia High School, says Opa! Is a family affair.
His brother Christos is a manager and the head chef is none other than his father, Yianni.
“My parents have been in the restaurant business for years,” said Rizos. “They ran a well-known restaurant called Mykonos, for many years so they know every aspect of the business.”
Rizos has borrowed some of the same menu items from Mykonos – which closed in 2008, but others he says are brand new to the Rochester area.
“Our recipes come directly from the Greek islands,” he says. “When I was growing up we spent every summer back in Greece with my grandparents and all my cousins. We are an incredibly close family and I am always getting ideas for new recipes from them.”
Recipes like the Opa baby-back ribs, which are oven-roasted with olive oil, oregano, lemon and Greek spices. Or the traditional Greek spreads called mezethes – appetizer plates featuring kalamari, feta, roasted red peppers and Kalamata olives.
“Of course we have all the traditional items you would expect, like moussaka and suvlaki, but there are lots of other dishes that you won’t find anywhere else outside of Greece, as well as favorites like pizza, pitas and paninis.”
The restaurant business is notoriously tough, but Rizos says he learned about hard work from the best.
“My parents came to this country with nothing,” he said. “My mother was pregnant with me at the time; they knew no English and my dad had a grand total of $80 in his pocket. He had been a chef in the Greek army so he got a job in a restaurant and worked his way up from there.”
Rizos himself worked at the family’s restaurant throughout his high school years and says the idea of a place of his own was always in the back of him mind. “I studied mechanical engineering for a while, but I grew up in restaurants and it is in my blood. When this location on Jefferson Road became available, I knew I had to open a place of my own.”
Opa, says Rizos, is a Greek word meaning “cheers” or “hurray.”
“And that’s what this place is, a celebration of my family heritage.”
For more information about the new restaurant, visit www.oparochester.com