Many a mafia dinner meeting was conducted here, Donnie Brasco was a regular.pinellas.tbo.com/pinellas/MGBLP1OUPDE.html
TARPON SPRINGS Spirited bouzouki music filled the kitschy gift shops and Greek restaurants throughout the sponge docks tourist area on Dodecanese Boulevard on Wednesday.
The upbeat sounds, however, did not reflect the mood among owners and managers of most businesses. Weighing on their minds were melancholy thoughts of a lost landmark, Pappas Riverside Restaurant.
The sprawling, 1,000-seat Greek dining and banquet facility on the shores of the Anclote River closed last week. "Pappas's," as locals call it, was founded near the sponge docks by Louis Pappamichalopoulos near the sponge docks in 1925. Its name then was the Riverside Cafe.
The name changed to Pappas, and about 30 years ago the restaurant moved into the huge facility perched on a small hill at the eastern end of Dodecanese.
Packed dining rooms for lunches and dinners were common, and it quickly became a linchpin of the local tourist economy. Throngs of diners would stroll down the boulevard after meals and spend money in the shops.
"It's very sad. Many of our merchants here got started because of the exposure Pappas brought us," said Theo Manglis, owner of Santorini Seafood and Grill on Dodecanese.
Business at Pappas fell after the family sold the restaurant to MK&B Enterprises three years ago. MK&B reported the sharp decline in a written statement this month.
Menu changes, smaller portions and inconsistent service hurt business, said Mike Skoutelis, owner of Mike's Gifts on Dodecanese, about 200 yards from Pappas. Skoutelis was a cook at Pappas for about 10 years, until 1989, he said.
"We used to be packed," Skoutelis said. "In the kitchen we refused to send a plate out if the portion wasn't big enough.
"The new owners changed the menu and really killed the place," he said. "They lost the local customers, and I started getting complaints in my store from tourists all the time."
What's next for the 4-acre, waterfront Pappas property is undecided. MK&B has not announced specific plans for what the company says will be a "mixed-use development."
A hotel is the hot rumor, and the one that makes most merchants smile along Dodecanese and on the Old World-looking side streets nearby.
Manglis, owner of Santorini Seafood and Grill, would rather see the revival of his former competitors.
"Everybody is talking about hotel, but I'd like the restaurant to come back," Manglis said of Pappas. "People came there and spent the whole day in Tarpon Springs, groups up to 500 sometimes. It was good for everybody.
"It's hard to believe that it's gone."
"People came there and spent the whole day in Tarpon Springs, groups up to 500 sometimes."
THEO MANGLIS On Pappas Riverside Restaurant
"Try not to think about dying, that might make you nervous."