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Keeping It in the Family

Family chooses to continue running The Greek Grill after owner's death.

When Vienna resident Dennis Makrigiorgos opened The Greek Grill in December 1998, he put his family to work. His sons, daughters and wife would act as servers, cooks and dishwashers. "We all did everything," said son Bill Makrigiorgos. "It was always family operated."

The restaurant sought to cultivate a family atmosphere, where customers would get to know everyone. "They would recognize him, and he would recognize them instantly," Makrigiorgos said.

Makrigiorgos' mother, Aspasia, would also work in the restaurant. A petite woman, she could not always be seen standing behind the register. "[Customers] all called her 'Mama,'" said Bill Makrigiorgos. "The business grew, and now we've got a consistent base of customers."

"People would get to know us and who we were," said Nia Manoleras, Dennis Makrigiorgos' daughter.

Now, after the Aug. 14 death of Dennis Makrigiorgos from lung cancer, the knowledge Makrigiorgos and his siblings gained from working in the restaurant is going to be put to use.

Bill Makrigiorgos left a position as a general manager for Sport and Health Club and will be taking over the day-to-day operations of running the business. "We're going to change very little," he said.

The restaurant may see some fresh paint on the interior, but the decor will change very little, and the kitchen will remain open. "[My father] wanted to keep it open," said Nick Makrigiorgos. "It's more a family restaurant."

"We're not going to change the atmosphere, just make it fresh," said Bill Makrigiorgos.

THE RECIPES will also go unchanged. Bill Makrigiorgos learned them by watching his father cook. He also plans to keep them the same in terms of portion size. "My mom keeps telling us, 'Don't ever change that,'" Bill Makrigiorgos said.

Some of the restaurant's regulars were happy to learn that the food will remain the same.

"They've been here for a while," said Bill Downs of Vienna. "They've got good food."

"I really like the food here," said Ed Lamb of Vienna. "Everything I've had is good."

Besides preparing the food, Dennis Makrigiorgos knew the restaurant industry, his children said. "If anything broke, he knew how to fix it," Manoleras said.

"We didn't realize how much he knew about how to run a restaurant," said Nick Makrigiorgos. "He knew the industry."

One change that Bill Makrigiorgos does plan to make is an attempt to expand the business. The family has started making bulk deliveries to local schools and businesses and hopes to add more deliveries and a catering service.

Dennis Makrigiorgos owned a restaurant, Ambrosia, in Rockville, Md., for 17 years. He sold that and retired, helping to work on his children's houses for a few years. "He drove us crazy for three years," said Manoleras.

But the restaurant business called him back, and he opened The Greek Grill in what had been Vienna Pizza.

Dennis Makrigiorgos continued working at his restaurant until just a few weeks before his death. He would come in an hour or so before opening and have a cup of coffee and some breakfast, just enjoying being in his business. "He would take such pleasure in just being here," Manoleras said. "I think he really enjoyed being with his customers."

"We're going to keep his memory alive by continuing to operate it how he did," said Bill Makrigiorgos.