For two decades, Dimitri Vlahakis, Owner of Esperanto Restaurant, has been delighting his guests with flavorful, South American inspired dishes. Along the way he’s met incredible people, including his wife, that make owning a restaurant in NYC’s Lower East Side all worth it. Watch Dimitri’s story and you’ll want to know how to start a restaurant of your own one day.
The thing that I love the most about the restaurant industry is the people that you meet. Customers, friends, the thing is that over the years, if you really embed yourself in the business, you have to become part of a family with the people that you’re working with.
I’m Dimitri Vlahakis. I work at a Esperanto restaurant and I’m the owner. My first job in the restaurant industry was cleaning dishes. I think that’s the standard first job in the restaurant industry. We run through the whole routine, you do front of house work, you seat people, you work at the bar, you do dishes and cook food. Whatever it is, you learn. And then after a few years, if you want to continue, you move on.
I opened up Esperanto with a partner of mine. We started with a bar in the neighborhood on the Lower East Side, we always came down to the Lower East Side as customers. and we enjoyed it a lot, it was a great atmosphere around here, a lot of wonderful people. So we decided that we wanted to do something more constructive. And that’s what we did. And we’ve been here two decades.
We decided on Northern Brazilian cuisine. Because it’s, very hearty, it’s very warm, it’s a welcoming environment. There’s a lot of spices in South American cuisine.. so, what we do, is we use those ingredients you find there, to make our food more flavorful. that’s what really makes the difference between this and other comfort food.
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I think if you’re persistent, and if you understand that you’re not in it to make money today. You might be making money tomorrow. And, if have something that people appreciate, you’ll know it.
We want people to have fun when they come here. We want them to enjoy the food, the most pleasurable thing for me is when they walk out and they’re like, “Wow that was great. I loved it”.
That’s really a pleasure, it means you accomplished something in your life, you did something. And it’s not always about the money. Money is good. Don’t get me wrong, and I would be lying to you if I didn’t say that. But it’s not always about that. We’re gonna to continue to put out great food. That I know.