Steve Koulouvaris opened Kooley's Deli two weeks ago, and lunch hours are busy.
"I always wanted to do this, make healthy food," Koulouvaris said, smiling as he spread chicken, hot peppers, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and tzatziki yogurt and garlic sauce on pita bread.
He was getting good reviews Friday.
Christine Hanna, administrative director for medical education at the nearby Largo Medical Center, was in a hurry to get a sandwich before a speaking engagement. She's had lunch several times at the deli and said the pastrami sandwich is her favorite. "It's fantastic," she said.
Lisa Whittmann and her sister Brenda Rau, both of Largo, were having lunch with their children.
It was their first time at the new deli. They came, Whittmann said, "because it's in the community and we want to support the community." She enjoyed her roast beef sandwich, she said, adding, "the bread was delicious."
Frank Colontonio of Palm Harbor said he had already eaten lunch at the deli five or six times.
"The food is very good," said Colontonio, who does a lot of business in St. Petersburg and passes the deli on his way.
"I like the mom-and-pop stores. They're more concerned about the food preparation."
Marilyn Hartwig, celebrating the 26th year of her Across the Pond ladies consignment shop next door to the deli, said the lemon chicken soup "is to die for."
Koulouvaris worked many years in his father's automotive repair business and dabbled in real estate. But he kept hoping to someday own a little restaurant.
"I love to cook. It's in my blood," he said. "My mother is a phenomenal Greek cook."
When space opened several months ago in the small Largo shopping center he owns, he decided it was time to grab the dream.
"This was my chance to do it," said the 47-year-old Dunedin resident, who was born in Athens, Greece, and grew up in Clearwater. "I figured if I had good food, the customers would come."
It took an investment of $40,000 to get the deli operational. The cost was mostly for equipment and materials, Koulouvaris said. He did a lot of the renovations himself, he said.
The name Kooley is a nickname, given by friends "who couldn't spell my name," Koulouvaris said, laughing.
He's always been the family cook and his son, Michael, 15, and daughter, Julia, 13, agree he's good at it. "He's meant for this," Michael said.
Both teenagers are working with their dad for the summer.
"I'm the dish boy and I make sandwiches," said Michael, a rising sophomore at Dunedin High. Julia, who will be in seventh grade at Our Lady of Lourdes school, works the cash register. Both take orders.
The menu includes gyros, chicken souvlaki, and Cuban and Reuben sandwiches on pita bread for $5.75; cold subs on hoagie rolls for $4.99 and $5.75; hot subs for $5.75; Greek, chicken and tuna salads for $4.99; and chicken lemon soup for $2.25.
Customers can order for take-out or eat in at one of several booths.
Koulouvaris said he is starting a delivery service and is looking for a driver. The delivery range will be within 2 miles.
Chris Cosdon can be reached at email@example.com.