When his parents passed away, Kostas Panayotakopoulos shed his career as a therapist in favor of a blue apron.
After well over a year of figuring out permits, dealing with construction and tracking down organic producers, Panayotakopoulos opened Greek Food Imports (650 Fulton Avenue) last month. The modest market and deli sells organic Greek goods, such as olive oil, wine, beer and feta, as well as prepared items, including gyros, baklava and the traditional lemony soup avgolemono.
Panayotakopoulos was born in San Francisco and raised in Sacramento, immersed in the local Greek Orthodox Church since he was about 6 years old. But his roots go back to the Messinia region of southern Greece, where his grandfather opened a cafe back in 1915. Many years later, his father would work in San Francisco restaurants. In Greek Food Imports, a large, black-and-white photo of Panayotakopoulos’ father looms above jars of honey and cans of squid.
“I wanted to rekindle the history of my dad and grandfather,” he said, adding that his first foray into the food business already seems natural. “It was meant to be. It feels right. It’s in my heart.”
With no hood onsite, Panayotakopoulos had to be creative—and largely outsource his cooking. A local baker makes his baklava, melomakarona, kourambiedes and galaktoboureko. For gyros, he sources meats precooked from local farms. The Dixon-raised lamb arrives tender and juicy from a long braise—a distinctly different result than the ubiquitous gyro cones most Mediterranean places order from Chicago.
In the near future, Panayotakopoulos plans to open a 2,000 square-foot patio. He’ll call it the “Greek Garden,” and host live music and dancing on Saturday afternoons alongside a pizza oven and grill for souvlaki. He’ll eventually add moussaka, pastitsio and other Greek sandwiches as well. Beyond creating a hub for traditional Greek culture in Sacramento, it also means a lot to him to purchase products from a country still suffering from an economic crisis.
“Now, I’m connected to Greece,” he says. “I can help there from here.”