For eight years, the Portu-Greek Cafe was known as the "Home of the Whole Belly Clam."
But despite the years of filling customers' bellies with Greek fare and New England-style seafood, Portu-Greek never made one dime of profit.
"I had to step up to the plate and take another job," said owner Jordan Lindiakos, 54, a tool and die maker by trade. He and a partner of Portuguese descent started the restaurant shortly after Lindiakos' family moved to the area from Long Island, N.Y., where he ran a small deli. The partner left the business not long after the cafe opened, but the name was catchy so Lindiakos kept it.
Lindiakos decided that if he wanted to save the struggling cafe, he would have to take drastic measures.
"It was do or die," he said. "Business was slow. We were falling behind on paying bills."
He applied to be on Restaurant: Impossible, a Food Network reality TV show that rescues failing establishments. Those that are chosen get a visit from celebrity chef Robert Irvine, who takes two days and $10,000 to fix the place.
Lindiakos pestered the network for two years before the show's producers took notice. And last week, Irvine and his crew came to town and overhauled the restaurant's interior and menu. Portu-Greek Cafe celebrated its grand reopening last week.
Lindiakos won't talk about what happened on the show. He's sworn to secrecy until the episode airs, and he's not entirely sure when that will be.
"They told me not to have a big party and invite everyone because it might change," he said.
He did admit that Irvine is "a big guy" and gives frank criticism. But he said his own stubbornness was among the things that hurt the restaurant.
"I was caught up in my own little world," he said. "But I've gone through the transition of not admitting my faults. I look at it with wide-open eyes and cleared-out eardrums."
Lindiakos showed off his remodeled dining room, where the brown and tan walls have been repainted a soft, ocean blue. A crew of volunteers took out a wall that had separated two seating areas and traded vinyl booths for trendier, shiny-topped tables and wooden chairs. In keeping with the nautical theme, they hung a huge anchor on one wall and boat propellers on the other. In the second area, they put lights behind a row of windows made to look like ship portals. A drink cooler that had occupied a prominent spot in the dining area was tucked in a back corner.
The crews did little to the kitchen or the exterior, a strip center that sits next to a canal. Lindiakos hopes to renovate the front of the building as well as the outdoor dining area.
Lindiakos estimates about 150 diners showed up for last week's unveiling. The restaurant seats about 50.
Lindiakos realizes the boost from the show is a beginning, not an end. He and his wife, Anne, and the three of their kids who are involved with the business have lots of work ahead if they want to succeed.
For now, he's taking time to bask in the afterglow.
"This is better than hitting the multimillion-dollar lottery," he said, a dreamy smile peeking from below his salt- and-pepper mustache. "It's priceless."
Lindiakos put in a late night during the reopening. After snatching a few hours of sleep, he headed back to the cafe.
"When I woke up, I thought it was all a dream," he said. "Then I opened the door and saw it again."
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Did you know?
Portu-Greek Cafe isn't the first Pasco business to gain national attention on reality TV.
- Micco Motors, a used-car lot on U.S. 19, was featured in 2011 on Spike TV's Car Lot Rescue, another makeover show. It closed about a month after filming. When the episode aired in February 2012, the dealer had been closed more than a year.
- Blondie's Cookies owner Brenda Coffman and Balloon Distractions owner Ben Alexander were both on the ABC show Shark Tank. Neither were offered deals from the sharks but said the national exposure improved business.
On the Web
Visit foodnetwork.com for more information on Restaurant Impossible and a schedule of upcoming episodes. You can also check out Portu-Greek Cafe's Facebook page.