About six years ago, Papayannis Chriss felt like he had studied and traveled and learning enough about Italian food to run his first restaurant. Thanks to a string of luck, all the massive obstacles, such as securing an adequate space and start up capital, among others that usually face restaurant operators had been taken care of.
Here's how it happened. An acquaintance, Wiener World owner Tom Rontiris had tried to open a second restaurant but for various reasons, it failed. Rontiris turned to Papayannis and his idea for an Italian style restaurant offering medium priced entrees and appetizers. Rontiris would own the place and Papayannis would run it and cook the food. .
So, right off the bat, Papayannis had the restaurant, the building and some equipment. But just before jumping in, he worried about his credibility as a Greek man running and cooking for an Italian restaurant. Would patrons buy it as authentic, regardless of how good the food was? This lasted for about a split second. Papayannis knew he could do it, regardless of his background. He lived in Italy for months. Visited there several times. Worked as an apprentice to a skilled chef. Of course he could do it. After all, all those other Greek restaurant owners in York - what were they serving? "They are cooking Pennsylvania Dutch", said Papayannis. "But no one questions that. It's like, wait a minute.".
Papayannis also went into al Dente, as the restaurant would be called, because Greek and Italian cooking actually shares many similarities. Both cultures are in the Mediterranean. They use the same ingredients; artichoke hearts, olive oil, olives, the same family of cheeses, all are found in Italian and Greek kitchens. "We are in the Mediterranean", he said. "So, change the names. We make it a little bit spicier than they do". Rontiris, who named Papayannis a partener in the early days of al Dente, said he had no doubt that Papayannis could make an Italian menu work.