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New look brings Pappas back in step

(ran SS edition of Metro & State)

After 23 years at the same site, the Louis Pappas Riverside Restaurant was due for some changes.

Owner Louis Lucas Pappas, 42, is completing about $500,000 worth of renovations to the 1,000-seat restaurant at the entrance to the Sponge Docks.

He also has updated the menu. "It was time," he says.

Pappas says one of the reasons he has been able to make the changes is that he recently became the sole owner of the restaurant. It's the first time in about 50 years the restaurant has been owned by only one member of the Pappas family. Pappas says he bought out a cousin a few months ago.

"It needed to be one person making decisions," he said.

More changes are in the works. Pappas says he plans to open a second restaurant by the end of the year, a 40-seat cafe in Tampa that would sell salads and sandwiches. He said he has not selected a specific location.

The new restaurant would offer delivery and take-out and would have a retail section to sell such items as olive oil, spices and wine.

It would not be the family's first venture in Tampa. Pappas said the family had a 175-foot, three-story riverboat restaurant in Tampa for 17 years, ending in 1974.

At the same time the family closed the Tampa restaurant, it closed one it had run in St. Petersburg for 25 years so it could focus on operating the Tarpon restaurant, which opened at its current location in 1975.

The Tarpon Springs restaurant, which has about 280 full- and part-time workers, served 3,500 people on Easter Sunday. Pappas said he expects the restaurant will serve 4,000 meals on Mother's Day this year.

Pappas said he kept the old favorites on the menu such as Greek salads and lamb stew, but added a number of new items, including more fresh pasta dishes.

"It was time to get away from a lot of the heavy stuff people don't like anymore," he said.

The restaurant, which has an entire room devoted to preparing salads, also has two kitchens and a bakery.

Renovations have included making the rooms brighter, closing off more banquet space and changing the bar area into a cafe. In addition to new furniture, the restaurant has all new plates, flatware and glasses.

"I see a whole lot of difference," in the way the restaurant looks, said Charlie Phillips, executive director of the Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce. "To me, he's done a lot of things right."

Pappas says he bought out his cousin, Louis Jack Pappas, a few months ago, but Louis Jack still works at the restaurant.

A third cousin, Mike Pappas, was bought out about 12 years ago, Pappas said.

The three cousins took over the restaurant from their fathers in 1985. Their fathers _ Lucas, Jack and Mike _ were the second generation to run the restaurant. Their father, Louis Pappas, started it at another location a few hundred feet farther down Dodecanese Boulevard in 1923.

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