Although its owners are of Greek descent, it is more famous for its country-style cooking than for its Mediterranean cuisine.
Although it is in a location where several previous restaurants failed, it has flourished for more than two decades.
And, although its owners have deep ties to both Greece and to Charlotte, they have embraced Cramerton as their home and the center of their family life.
“Mom and Dad (George and Helen Koutsoupias) came to America from Greece in the early 1970s, seeking a better life,” explained their eldest son, Angelo Koutsoupias, who is one of the owners and manager of Georgio’s, located in the Food Lion shopping center in Cramerton. Settling in Charlotte, the couple got involved in the restaurant business and set about raising five children.
At one time, the family owned four different restaurants in Charlotte – Georgio’s I, II, III, and IV – and had no plans to cross the Catawba and enter into the Gaston County restaurant scene. In the late 1990s, however, George was convinced to lease the space in Cramerton that had previously been home to a fish camp, a family restaurant, and a upscale piano bar and restaurant. Each of those ventures was short-lived.
The new Georgio’s in Cramerton proved so successful, however, that the family closed its Charlotte businesses and focused exclusively on Gaston County.
So what is the recipe for success for a realm in which so many attempts fail?
“Good food, good service, and a good reputation in the community,” Angelo answered, emphasizing that good service is perhaps the most important of the three.
“You have to be nice to people,” he explained. “You have to be friendly with your customers. You have to make them feel welcome and at home and taken care of.”
Good food, however, is also essential, he explained, with hearty portions that ensure a customer never leaves the restaurant hungry.
“Generous portions are important,” Angelo said. “One of the things that made my dad famous was that when he gave you a plate, it was a plate piled high with food.”
Although some Greek and Italian dishes are available at Georgio’s, the staples preferred by many customers are pure Southern country cooking — meat loaf and mashed potatoes, fried flounder and french fries, roast beef and rice and gravy, and succulent baked half-chickens.
“Everybody always likes the home cooking,” Angelo said. “So much of it, we do from scratch. We use old recipes that my parents learned from their employees over the years. They have stood the test of time.”
Angelo said that he is able to keep Georgio’s prices reasonable by buying as many fresh, local products as possible and by serving as his own butcher, personally cutting the meats. “It takes time,” he said, “but one of us (the family) is always in the kitchen.”
An issue with “one of us is always in the kitchen” is the long hours that pile up each week at a restaurant that is open 14 hours a day, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Those hours and the toll they were taking on his family life led Angelo to begin closing the restaurant on Sundays earlier this year. “We were open from 11 to 3 for lunch and a lot of folks loved to come here after church,” he said. “Folks might say ‘that’s only four hours,’ but that does not take into account all the time for food prep and all the time for cleanup. When you include that, it was more like 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.”
As the restaurant moves forward into its third decade, Angelo said his parents, especially his dad, are still very much involved at the restaurant – “Dad can’t stay away,” and that his sisters, Dina and Angela have worked there over the years as has his brother Demetrious.
“We really do feel at home here in Cramerton,” Angelo said. “This community is where we want to be.”
Bill Poteat, who is partial to the meat loaf and mashed potatoes, may be reached at 704-869-1855.