Mama Zoe Michael’s
September 7, 1969 is when my first love began for food & hospitality. It was my 10th birthday and all my family and neighborhood friends were waiting for my father to come home so we could sing happy birthday and dig into my mothers Greek cooking. When my father finally arrived, he announced that he had bought a restaurant; Christy’s in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. I had no clue where that little town was, but it was soon to become my home away from home and my greatest educator in the food and hospitality industry!
My father would pick me up after school so I could be at the restaurant for “Supper Time”. Aside from being overwhelmed with new foods and cooking techniques, my parents did not speak nor understand the English language. Even though I spoke English, I had never heard of all the foods on the menu. The only foods I was familiar with was the Hotdoggia (hot dogs), Cheesebourgos (cheeseburgers), & Frenzefries (French fries). I could not even pronounce the foods correctly, the rest was all a chaotic blur.
I was only accustomed to eating home cooked Greek food prepared by my amazing mother who loved to cook and feed people. She was the best at Spanakopita and Baklava, but when it came to Cream and Meringue Pies, she couldn’t get it right. My father would get upset and throw them in the garbage! She had a tough time, but by golly at the end she mastered the recipes and her pies were in the newspaper! Christy’s made 25 different varieties of meringue and fruit pies every morning, all from scratch, as they still do today!
At 10 years old, I wasn’t watching “The Brady Bunch” or “Leave it to Beaver”. Instead, I was watching my parents struggling to communicate with the servers and cooks. The grill was located out front in the dining room and I watched them as they put the wrong condiments on the wrong sandwiches because they didn’t read the ticket right, so of course they argued in Greek. I had to jump in, I had to concentrate and learn how to help my parents, and how to properly run our new restaurant. I did not want to be embarrassed or laughed at, I was determined to learn.
Throughout the years my father became known as “Crazy Bill” and coined the phrases “How are you pal? How are you dear?” and “Get the money girls!” Some of you may remember my father as he sat in the front of Mama Zoe’s and greeted the guests. He was very ill, but he came everyday until he couldn’t come anymore. He adored his customers and they adored him. I can still hear his voice, “Everything ok?”…If not…come back and try again tomorrow.” He taught us to love our customers and would say the restaurant is our family.
To this day, over 47 years later, Christy’s Restaurant, my love, passion and mentor is still serving customers daily. Some of the original staff is still there, working since 1969. The restaurant is currently owned and operated by my brother, Dino Rizos.
With the collection of family favorites and food recipes spanning over 47 years, we have brought them all together here at Mama Zoe Michael’s. We hope you enjoy and we thank you all for your support, love and patronage and for making Mama Zoe Michael’s your neighborhood restaurant!