It was a triumphant night for former Athens Grill owner John Mantzopoulos when his new restaurant Mazi officially opened Tuesday in downtown Riverhead.
The evening began with a crowd of friends and fellow merchants filling the restaurant as Mr. Mantzopoulos lit the grill.
Many came to wish him well, had a drink at the bar and pick up where they left off two years ago before the restaurant, formerly Athens Grill, was destroy by a fire in 2013.
“It’s magical,” Mike Spero of Riverhead said of the new space. “It took forever, but now he’s here. It was worth the wait.”
Bill Andes of Aquebogue also said he was happy to see Mr. Mantzopoulos again.
“It’s nice to see him going up and getting back on his feet,” Mr. Andes said. “We all want to see John do well here.”
Mr. Mantzopoulos was in the kitchen and turning out one dish after another Tuesday night. Every few minutes, he would step out from the kitchen because a visitor wanted a hug or to congratulate him on the new restaurant.
The crowd also snacked on several dishes, including crab cakes, clams on the half shell, Italian meatballs and grilled pork.
“I’m so happy for him and the food is great,” said Miyoshi Cambra, owner of Sweet Tart Frozen Yogurt Café, located next door to Mazi. “I love Greek food and it’s so needed in Riverhead. It’s another business that’s going to be a staple downtown that many people are looking forward to. We’re really excited for John and it came out beautiful!”
“Two years, two months and 13 days, but nobody’s counting,” said Hristina Mantzopoulos with a smile. “When we purchased this place it was already here, so we didn’t have to do too many things to get it operational. This was from scratch, so it was a lot more difficult. We did have a lot of help from a lot of people, agencies, I can’t say enough.”
“It feels great,” Mr. Manzopoulos said, as he stepped away from the kitchen for a moment. “It feels like I just woke up from a nightmare. It’s over and now back to reality. Everybody that was here before is here now, including some of my staff. Now I’m going back to cooking.”
Mazi is located at 33 East Main Street in Riverhead.