Constantinos “Costas” Nikolaos Antonopoulos brought his skills as a pastry chef to Seattle, Washington, in 1968. From there he expanded his culinary skills and became a successful and respected restaurateur.
Costa was born on June 10, 1941, in Anthona Ilias, a small village near Amaliada, south of Patras in the Peloponnese of Greece. From the age of 16 until he was 26 years old, he held a number of jobs in Athens, Greece. One year near Christmas time he took a job as a temporary dishwasher in the Dellis Pastry Shop, a prominent zaharoplastion (pastry shop). From there he began assisting the pastry chef and, shortly thereafter, he was promoted to assistant pastry chef at Dellis. The shop served a number of wealthy families and on one occasion orders for 700 cakes were received, filled and delivered to families in Athens. After observing the mixing and baking process, Costa would write down the recipes when he came home from work. Before he left Greece in 1966, Costa was making a very comfortable salary.
As a teenager, Costa had the opportunity to visit an American ship in the port at Patras. As he stood in line, he was offered a drink of water from a small paper cup. When the cup was used and then discarded, he was amazed as he was used to drinking directly from the tap in his village. At that time he knew he was going to America because the country was so much more progressive than Greece. Costa initially settled in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, but found the winter weather too severe and considered returning to Greece. A pastry shop owner from the Broadway Bakery in Vancouver, British Columbia, knew Costa’s boss and was in Montreal looking for a pastry chef. The next morning Costa packed his belongings to move to better weather on the Canadian west coast.
He spent the next year at the Broadway Bakery making pastries, phyllo (dough of paper-thin sheets), bread and other items. At the time the partners in Seattle’s Continental Pastry Shop were visiting Vancouver to see what kind of equipment they might use in their shop. Assuming that the United States might provide better opportunities, Costa accepted an offer to join the group at the Continental in 1968. After a few years in Seattle he became a partner in the business.
In 1976 Costa opened Costa’s restaurant in Seattle’s University District. It continues to be successful. In 1981 he opened Costas OPA in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. Costa’s OPA operated continuously until 2012 and during that time became a Seattle landmark specializing in Greek cuisine.
Even while operating several restaurants at the same time, Costa has been willing to endure the headaches and frustrations that accompany such work. He believes one has to be a philosopher and willing to learn and practice many different skills in order to be successful. He has never worried about his competition. “Why scare yourself with competitors? It will only keep you up at night. Do what you can to please your customers and the rest will follow.”
Costa’s restaurants and his participation in the community have been recognized on a number of occasions. Two certificates of appreciation are shown here. In addition, in 2000 Costas OPA received the “BEST OF SEATTLE EDITOR’S PICKS” from the Seattle Weekly. Also, in 2006 OPA received Seattle Magazine’s “READERS’ CHOICE BEST GREEK” award. Costas OPA has also received “Favorite Merchant” awards from both Seattle Pacific University and the University of Washington.
When asked if there were any bad times for him as a Greek in Washington, he replied that he is pleased with how he has been treated in the United States and says “It is up to you how you are going to live your life.” He values the opportunity to seek the “American Dream.”By John Nicon November, 2014 VIDEO SEGMENTS
1 Costa Antonopoulos, circa 2000
2. Seattle Weekly article, GREEK EATS, June 26, 1991
3 Inside Costas OPA, 2004
4 Nikola and Costa, circa 2008
5 Ceramics and logo, undated
6 “OPA” says Costa, 2010
7 Certificate of Achievement, 2001
8 Wallingford Wurst Festival Certificate of Appreciation, 1993
9 Costa, 2014
Photo 9 by John Nicon; all others from Antonopoulos family collection SOURCES
Video interview by John Nicon and Connie Innis, May 2014