Italian food is out, Greek cuisine appears to be in.
The owners of a Halifax-based Greek restaurant are in talks with at least one Charlottetown businessman to open an Opa! Greek Taverna franchise in the P.E.I. capital.
Costa Elles told The Guardian Monday that while nothing has been finalized he is very hopeful Opa! will be opening its doors in the near future at the former location of Piazza Joe’s on Kent Street in Charlottetown.
“We have come down (to Charlottetown); we have looked at the property. I can’t confirm or deny it,’’ Elles said in an interview from Halifax. “We’re just in the process right now of getting our ducks in a row (but) we would like to. It looks like it is going to happen.’’
Elles wouldn’t attach a timetable to opening the doors in Charlottetown since he and his co-owner, Chris Tzaneteaf, have yet to purchase the building which used to house Piazza Joe’s.
Joe Lisi closed the doors on his Charlottetown Italian restaurant before Christmas. Lisi was seeking $595,000 for the restaurant and building.
In an interview in October, Lisi said he was looking to focus more attention on other going concerns, notably his Buy Rite stores in Cornwall, Sherwood and Montague. He also owns Bayberry Lane Home Décor and Gifts in Cavendish, Borden-Carleton and Charlottetown.
Lisi operated Piazza Joe’s for 15 years and, prior to that, ran the popular nightclub Tradewinds for 23 years.
Piazza Joe’s employed 35 staff when it closed, many of whom found jobs in other restaurants or chose a career path change.
Opa has been in existence since 2000 when the first location opened on Argyle Street in Halifax. A second and third location followed in 2008 and 2009 in Dartmouth Crossing and Bayer’s Lake, respectively.
Elles said they’ve also had conversations about opening in Saint John and Moncton but Charlottetown is their first priority.
Elles describes Opa as “doing Greek food with a bit of flair’’. Everything on the menu is made in-house and locally-grown products are used as much as possible.
Elles promises loads of Greek-style commotion at Opa, whether it’s merely food being flambéed at a customer’s table or plates breaking on the floor.
In fine Greek tradition, when something like a plate or glass breaks on the floor, everyone in the restaurant yells “Opa’’. The word Opa is a Greek word that really has no meaning but is used to describe jubilant emotion, sort of like a ‘yeehaw’.
On special occasions, customers are given plates to smash.
Elles said he looked at Charlottetown because Islanders are “sophisticated about their food’’.
“We feel that it would do very well.’’