By Scott Trudeau
Special to the Western News
Minas Portalaki of La Casa Ouzeria said he loves being recognized by patrons for his work in the family’s business.
While the restaurant was named by Penticton Western News readers as the 2018 Best of the South Okanagan award winner for Best Overall Restaurant, Portalaki was quick to note that the secret to any successful business is a commitment to hard work — and for their business that means his mother, Zacharenia “Jackie” Portalaki owner and CEO and his sister Eftalia Portalaki.
“We have won several best of titles over the years, and the recognition continues to feed our pride and inspires us to be better,” he said. “Being recognized as the best overall restaurant in a city like Penticton that is continually growing means a lot to us.
“With so many great restaurants here, an award like this voted on by the people that call Penticton home shows us that the customers genuinely appreciate all our hard work every day. We have won best overall two other times; 2008 and 2013.”
In terms of some of the keys that make successful restaurant, Portalaki said they care a lot about the process from beginning – where their food is sourced, how it is prepared with consistency – to the end result, their customers’ experience.
“I put alot of effort into training our staff to perceive this business as their own, and care as much as we the owners do,” he said. “The biggest thing that makes us successful is that we are passionate about our business. Every single aspect we strive for greatness.
“Mama Jackie makes every single dish on the menu from scratch, every single item right down to the caesar salad dressing is made in house. As a family we are involved in every part of the restaurant; the food and kitchen, the ingredients we bring in, the beverages, the service you receive when you dine with us.”
Portalaki said they’re establishment started in the same place the family roots are located — in the small villages in Crete. Both his parents possessed an affinity for food and taste and when they emigrated it began with a pizza shop and then in 1996 they opened La Casa Ouzeria. They moved to their current location on Main Street in 2002.
The biggest change in the restaurant industry is technology. Everything from how the food is ordered, to supplies andinventory to how customers can place their orders.
“When we first started we did everything by pen and paper; now we offer online ordering and reservations that customers can do quickly and when it’s convenient for them,” he said. “Marketing has changed enormously as well. Twenty-two years ago we had two options, radio and newspaper, that was it. Now with numerous online marketing tools, social media, and staying connected with our customers, it is a fascinating new era we are in.”
Because of the support they have received from the community, they try to give back whenever they can. Among these are: Penticton Minor Hockey, Penticton Minor Lacrosse, Penticton Secondary School grad and they are a candidate sponsor for Miss Penticton.
Portalaki said that in the hospitality industry they’re fortunate to have long-term serving and kitchen staff and that helps to make them the best they can be. We are a family run business with a large employee family that we couldn’t do it without.
“Being well-established in the community and not straying from what we first started with has kept us as a reliable choice for our many loyal and repeat customer as well as first time visitors that come and check us out,” he noted.