Born in 1931, Stergios Gitsis (“Stevie”) grew up during difficult, war torn years in a small village in northern Greece. As one of the older children in a family of 6, he did his best to help out. Sometimes that meant being sent out by his father, a woodsman and shepherd, to go and tend to their flock of sheep.
During World War II, after his home and village was burned down, and the subsequent 4 year Greek civil war ensued, Stevie’s formal education was limited to a 3rd grade level as he instead opted to work and keep his family from starving. At 19, a chance to emigrate to the USA (1951) was a dream come true and, looking forward to this new life, Stevie set out to claim his share of the American dream.
With less than $50 between Stevie and his younger Brother Jerry, they set sail in September on a 3 week voyage across the Atlantic on a steam ship from Greece to Ellis Island, New York City. Initially taken in by their aunt Kaliope Nicholas in Rockford, Indiana, and not knowing a word of English, the brothers worked odd jobs in factories, steel mills, and plants.
Three years later, after being invited by his friends at the famous Nick Tahou (and their “Garbage Plate”) to work for him, the now proudly American Stevie moved to Rochester, NY in 1955. Washing dishes and cooking hot dogs for Tahou, Stevie quickly realized that in the boom years of post-WWII, there was money to be made feeding the city dwellers and factory workers.
Together with Jerry and his newly arrived brother Sam, and his cousin Jimmy, their combined years of savings, the 4 entrepreneurs struck it out on their own and opened up their first restaurant called Gitsis Texas Hots on Central & Monroe Avenue 10 years after first setting foot in the USA.
The first years of business were so good they expanded to Buffalo Road and ran the dual diner locations working 12-16 hour days together for many years. The downtown Monroe Avenue became the landmark that existed for over 60 years, and the westside suburban Buffalo Road location thrived, expanding into a tripartite restaurant group including the 400 seater Gitsis Party House, Gitsis Steak House famous for hosting Llions club, Rotary club, Greek nights with belly dancers, and the 24 hour Gitsis Diner, all driven and underscored by growing families in the suburbs, and the white & blue collar workers from the nearby Kodak plants, looking for satisfying breakfast, lunch, and dinners, all the way up until the end of the 20th century.
As the years went and as demographics changed in the city and suburbs, the brothers with their growing families in tow also went out on their own, bringing their style of American Diners to many areas around the Rochester area especially in smaller towns and villages such as in Spencerport Pittford, and Holley NY. In 1989 Stevie with his family headed south of Rochester to build a new restaurant in the neighboring villages of both Perry and Warsaw and named them Silverlake Family Restaurants,’ paying tribute to the picturesque summer attraction in the area.
Since 1990 the Silverlake restaurant in Warsaw NY has been welcoming locals and travelers alike. Nick Gitsis, and the the friendly staff of the place, hold the fort down but don’t be surprised if you see Stevie around having a coffee, something to eat, or even working, now well into his 90’s still living his American dream.
Thank you for dining with us!
The Gitsis Family