Lost in thought, Peter Antonopoulos lit a cigar. Gazing at the calm water of the Long Island Sound from the back window of the View Grill, he smiled. His restaurant always reminds him of Greece, he said. And although he has lived on Long Island since 1962, Antonopoulos’s heart is never far from his European roots.
As a fixture of Glen Cove’s restaurant scene for 50 years, Antonopoulos, 85, has brought the ancient charms and flavors of Greece to an appreciative community. Many people stopped by an informal celebration last Sunday, which featured a complimentary buffet, to thank him for his efforts.
Antonopoulos didn’t come to Glen Cove directly from Greece. One of seven children, he moved to Montreal in 1956, at age 22, when a friend from his village offered him a job there. He didn’t like the work, he said, but he needed a job. Soon after, he arranged for five of his siblings to move to Canada. Before long he owned a Montreal coffee shop.
A friend told Antonopoulos he had to visit the United States, especially New York. In 1961 he decided to see it for himself, but, he recalled, things didn’t go as planned. The trip was cut short when he lost $300 playing gin rummy the first night. His eyes twinkled when he told the story.
He returned to Canada, but came back to New York the following year to work in a Brooklyn coffee shop. “Then immigration came in June,” Antonopoulos said, putting out his cigar. “They asked me if I was a communist.” He was told to leave.
But there was something about New York that he liked, so he returned in the spring of 1963, paying $10 for the bus trip to Manhattan. He got a job in a restaurant in Plainview, where he met his future (now former) wife, Jane Arnodi, who was a waitress. She was 19, and an immigrant from Denmark. That he was 28 didn’t bother her, Antonopoulos said, and Jane asked him to marry her.
They were married in July 1963 in Montreal, and soon afterward, Jane went to the American embassy to request U.S. citizenship. They came to New York that November, and Antonopoulos became a citizen five years later. They bought a home in Plainedge, and had two daughters.
Antonopoulos bought his first business, the Village Green in Glen Cove, in 1969. It was an ice cream parlor, right next to the movie theater on School Street. “I found a nice opportunity in Glen Cove, so I decided to take it,” he said. “It was beautiful in Glen Cove, and there was a nice Greek population here.”
He said he loved the city so much that he bought a house there in 1970. Two years later he bought his first restaurant, the Apollo Inn, across the street from the Village Green, at 89 School St., where Staples is now.
Under Antonopoulos’s ownership, the Village Green became a diner in 1974. Although Glen Cove Restaurant, as it was called, was popular, Antonopoulos wanted to challenge himself further. He upgraded the diner to an upscale restaurant that he renamed Peter’s Place in 1984. He renovated it again in 1997, and called it Page One.
He and his chef, Jeanine DiMenna, became partners both now owning the restaurant. Together they created a popular Glen Cove eatery known for its delicious cuisine.
“Page One was modern for its time,” he said. “We got two stars from The New York Times and a rating of Very Good from Newsday.”
Antonopoulos and DiMenna sold Page One in 2014, having been asked by the city, which owns the Glen Cove Golf Course, to run its restaurant temporarily that summer. When they were asked to stay on at The View Grill, they bought it.
Antonopoulos suffered a stroke two years ago, and now walks slowly, with a cane. His words can be difficult to understand, but he can still be found at his restaurant. “I enjoy the fact that I don’t have to work as hard,” he said. “But the restaurant business is tougher now. It’s hard to make ends meet.”
DiMenna, who is also The View Grill’s chef, said Antonopoulos had always wanted to make it to 50 years in Glen Cove. “It was a goal of his,” said DiMenna. He changed her life, she said. “He gave me an opportunity to get into my own as a chef and an opportunity to get involved in the community. I’m very grateful for that.”
Antonopoulos’s daughter, Carol, has always worked with him. She remembers making apple turnovers for the lunch crowd when she was a teenager, and she has done it all — cleaning, serving and cooking at her father’s various restaurants. He cooked until he was 81, she said, and always made the soups and sauces.
“He’s sharp as a whip even today,” Carol said. “He was always instructing, telling me how I could get better. The restaurants have always been in his heart.”