Open Kitchen celebrates 60th anniversary

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - On Monday, the crowd came for an anniversary bash.

But in the fifties, it was an exotic new food that brought them to Open Kitchen.

People would drive here from Shelby, from Salisbury - just a huge area - to try this new thing called pizza pie," says Christina Skiouris with a smile.  She owns Open Kitchen today with her brothers.  Their father, Steve Kokenes, and his brother started it all.  And, yes, the family is Greek, not Italian.

Radio and TV personality Robert Raiford remembers an unexpected delivery to his station.

"It was Steve Kokenes who came in and he brought a pizza," Raiford recalls, "and he said well this is the first time we've had pizza in Charlotte. Of course back then, they called it peeza pie," he says, laughing.

Raiford was a fan. "And I began to talk about him, and the good place he opened, and pretty soon it became the in-place to come," he says.

Sixty years later, Open Kitchen is an institution. Skiouris' Dad has passed on, but she says her family has a lot to be grateful for.  They've overcome hard times in West Charlotte.

"Now, it's turned around and come back to be a residential area with a lot of young couples, and it's nice to bring life back to the neighborhood, and we're still here, a part of it," Skiouris says.

"I have worked here 39 years," a waitress named Sue says, adding that she tried to retire recently.  "I missed it so much," she says.

So she kept coming back.

Just like the customers.