Maria and George Christou At the Helm of RT’s Restaurant

By Bob Tagert

Maria and George Christou At the Helm of RT’s Restaurant

Last October, after spending many years at her father’s restaurant, Taverna Cretekou in Old Town Alexandria, Maria and her husband George Christou decided to strike out on their own. The word in town was that owner Ralph Davis was considering retiring from his very successful restaurant career and sell his last remaining property…RT’s Restaurant on Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray. They began negotiations and eventually closed the deal. “It was what we were looking for,” says George. “It reminded us of Taverna, a family owned and run business that has been around for 30-40 years,” he continued.

Maria started working for her parents, Chris and Denise Papaloizou at the popular Taverna in 2005 as their bookkeeper and also worked the kitchen for 2 to 3 years and worked the floor as well, from hosting to waiting tables. She has experienced every aspect of running a restaurant from a hands-on point of view.

George, on the other hand, got into the food hospitality business by accident. “I was in the Greek Army and they needed help in the kitchen, so I volunteered. I liked it,” he tells me. “I was cooking for 1000 people, three times a day.” When George came to America to study, he took a job at Angelo’s Italian Restaurant in Virginia Beach. While attending classes he would cook part time and then cook full time in the summer for the next five years. After school George worked in the IT field but still had a passion for the restaurant business. He eventually joined his wife at Taverna and worked on the floor and managed. “In the last 6 or 7 years I really got into it, and now we have our own place.”

As it turns out, the timing couldn’t have been worse. They had done the deal and then the COVID-19 reared its ugly head. “We were concerned with the pandemic but people were saying that it wasn’t so bad. The president said, ‘Don’t worry, it will all be fine’,” George ponders, “We eventually opened up and then had to close in two weeks and let everybody go.” That is when Maria got to work on doing all they could do to keep them and their employees in business. She started with the Small Business Association and secured a PPP loan so they could partially retain their employees. She said that this was the saving grace for them.

On May 7th they opened again for the “second” time. They have adjusted their business model, as others have, by promoting carryout and home delivery. George is the delivery guy – within a two mile radius – and said he has enjoyed meeting many of the RT’s regulars that way. It’s more personal. They are now working on what the interior layout is going to be when ‘normal’ dining is allowed. So much for the glamour of owning your own restaurant.

The Christou’s have been true to their word. They have not changed a thing on the menu and have embraced the former employees. Matt Davis, Ralph’s son, remains as their manager. “We are always consulting with Matt, after all, he has been here a long time and loves the business. He also knows the food and everything about the place,” says George. They have also retained popular bartender CAT as well as their waiters. Maria and George also have a daughter 11 and a son 13 years old. “Right now my daughter is in the kitchen slicing bread,” George explains. It looks like this might be another family affair.

When questioning the future, George tells me that they are anticipating 50 percent occupancy. “That will help us to begin to survive and turn the corner, right now we only have two tables for the sidewalk so outdoor dining will be of no help,” he laments. We joked about them taking over the business next door so they could turn that space into a nice outdoor area. Who knows…these two are very enterprising.

One thing is certain…both George and Maria have the right attitude to be in this business. They are energetic and passionate about what they are doing! The timing certainly could have been better, but with community support and their “Let’s Go” attitude…they will be fine.

If you want some of the best Gumbo and Red Beans and Rice or anything else this side of Louisiana, check them out.

RT’s Restaurant

3804 Mount Vernon Avenue

703-684-6010

Rtsrestaurant.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: