Rigas’ celebrating 50 years

BELLAIRE When out of town guests step through the doors of Rigas’ Restaurant in Bellaire, the first question they ask is “Do you have good food?”

Rosalie Rigas-Kovalyk usually responds with a fairly straightforward answer.

“We’ve been open for 50 years,” she tells them.

A simple yes would have sufficed. But that yes doesn’t quite paint the full picture the way 50 years of longevity does.

After all, in an age when the mom-and-pop restaurants are giving way to the corporate chains and fast-food establishments, Rigas stands alone as a testament to quality and service.

In honor of that longevity, Rigas’ Restaurant is thanking its customers with a number of specials throughout the month of November.

Rigas’ already offers great deals on daily specials, but Rigas-Kovalyk asks customers to check the newspaper for even greater deals coming their way.

The best deals will be coming during anniversary week, which begins on Nov. 11.

The family is also offering a daily giveaway. Customers will enter their names into a drawing.

The winner will be allowed to spin the ‘Wheel of Rigas’, with winners receiving anything from five free deserts, a $25 or $50 gift certificates, 50 coffee or soft drinks or five hot beef and mash potatoes, to name a few.

It’s all for the customers, who’ve made the last 50 years of Rigas’ Restaurant possible.

And that should come as no surprise.

That’s what the late Mike Rigas, the founder of the restaurant, first started doing in 1963 when he opened up at 3293 Belmont St taking care of the customer, his extended family.

It’s that same spirit that still thrives inside Rigas’ today.

Rigas’ wife, Clara, still works at the restaurant. As does the couple’s two children, Christopher Rigas and Rigas-Kovalyk. A cousin, George Krabousanos, also helps man the kitchen as one of Rigas’ three chefs.

Only the family members know the recipes.

They know the ingredients.

Not only that, but the exact way those ingredients should be prepared to provide the mouth-watering dishes Rigas’ has become famous for.

Even something small like a change in brand of sugar used can upset the delicate balance of the recipe. It happened once in the past and Rigas-Kovalyk quickly corrected her supplier to return back to the original brand.

Nearly every item on the menu is made daily from scratch.

“Ninety-nine percent of our menu is homemade and made from scratch,” Rigas-Kovalyk noted. “That’s our recipe for chuck roast, beef, pork, oven roasted ribs, etc. They are all recipes from 50 years ago.

“We don’t sacrifice on quality or get a cheaper brand of something. We don’t do that. I’d rather take something off of the menu.”

That dedication to quality is passed down to the employees.

“Beatrice Campbell has been here since 1983 and some have only been here a few years. But they fit in the family,” Rigas-Kovalyk said. “They are not just employees, but family. They take pride in their work. This is their investment too. WE have the best server and employees in the world. They are like kindred spirits.”

It’s not just a job. It’s a calling.

Rigas-Kovalyk has a masters degree and taught for three years. But the pull of the restaurant was too great and she finds herself, alongside her mother, brother, cousin and extended family, manning the kitchen and providing quality home cooked meals to their customers.

“You are married to it. It’s in my blood,” she said. “I could have an easier way of life. This isn’t an easy life. But we take care of so many. Dad never really worried about becoming a millionaire. But he did worry about taking care of his extended family.”

Rigas’ is open Monday through Saturday from 6:30 a.m. until 9 p.m.

It closes for two weeks every year, recently during the month of July, to allow for vacations for all of its employees. Then ,it’s back to the grind.

For more information, stop in or give the restaurant a call at (740) 676-9056.

Hughes may be reached at mhughes@timesleaderonline.com