MANATEE -- Love and marriage fit together like business success and a good dinner for the Ameres family of Popi's Place Restaurants as they prepared to launch their newest venture, Popi's Place on the Ranch, 8745 State Road 70 East, Lakewood Ranch.
The new restaurant is expected to open in April.
Andy Ameres, son of founding chef Popi Ameres, will be the proprietor of the newest venture, assisted by his bride-to-be, Kalli Peros, 29, who shares the same name as his mother, Kalliopi. She, too, is a Floridian of Greek heritage and the child of restaurant owners. The nuptials are planned for Aug. 17 in Greece.
"With Popi's Place on the Ranch, I'm looking forward to getting involved with the community. I know they have a lot of sports out there for the kids. I want to get involved in all that. I want to raise funds and work with the hospitals and I really am looking forward to being a part of the community," Andy Ameres said,
"This restaurant is for my wife-to-be. I'm going to be in business with my wife," he said.
That's a good deal for the new couple.
"My wife-to-be, my fiancee, I hear from my mother-in-law that she is the most amazing employee she has, so my in laws need three people to replace her," said the Manatee High and Johnson & Wales University graduate.
"She's from Winter Haven," Ameres said. "They own a couple of restaurants in Frostproof. One is Frostbite and the other is Families."
Peros' mother used to baby-sit the Ameres children and Popi Ameres teased her that when she had a daughter, one of the Ameres sons would marry her. But the 37-year-old man insists this is not an arranged marriage.
"We used to compete or joke around with each other in Greece. We went there every summer. Growing up we would make fun of each other, in a joking, flirting way. Last summer we just really became involved. I looked in her eyes and something happened. I freaked out, let her hand go and I just knew something happened. From then on we were inseparable. She's my soul mate and I love her," he said.
There six Popi's Place Greek and American home cooking restaurants.
The first Popi's Place opened at 818 17th Ave. W., Bradenton. Among customers there has been confusion over the pronunciation of the restaurant's name, perhaps coming from the various languages spoken in this area, but the restaurateur makes it clear that her name is pronounced pope-ey, like the pontiff, not poppy, like the flower.
Each of the six Popi's Places are numbered, but things are about to change.
"We're actually going to eliminate all the numbers," Andy Ameres said. "Each place will be called according to its origin. Popi's Place Palmetto, Popi's Place Ellenton, Ruskin, Manatee, Manatee Avenue, McKechnie Field, If we kept going, we'd end up being Popi's place 100," he said.
"Our food is almost 100 percent homemade food. Good quality food. We take time on our food, we don't just put things together and I think people know that," he said.
Most of all, the restaurant's founder stays with her mission of honoring the customer. "Customers are number one. We love them, we support them. We charge them, of course, because we have to survive. But I really care for them a lot.'
Dee Graham, Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-748-0411, ext. 7024.