Hamezoboulos offers classic cuisine to Natchez customers

Published 2:12 pm Sunday, March 25, 2007

The New Orleans-style ambience in the Center City Bistro is no accident.

And the French Quarter look of the building, including the brick courtyard, was one of the attractions for Peter Hamezoboulos, former New Orleans restaurateur who has put his own touch and a new Greek-style menu on the former Center City Grill, 125 N. Commerce St.

“I’m pleased with the location,” said Hamezoboulos, sitting at an outside table prepared for Friday lunch.

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“It’s a landmark in downtown Natchez,” he said.

The staff is trained. New artworks with Greek motifs are going up on the walls and on shelves inside.

And the aromas coming from the kitchen are from recipes Hamezoboulos learned from his Greek mother.

He grew up in Olympia, Greece, “where the Olympics began,” he said. “It is very beautiful. Over 3,600 islands.”

At 18, Hamezoboulos moved to the United States and soon opened his first restaurant in New York City.

His family did not have a history of owning restaurants. Asked why he decided to open an eatery, he said, “Because I’m Greek.”

Proud of his heritage, the new Natchez resident told of moving to New Orleans in the mid 1970s. “It was mostly for the South, the weather,” he said.

He built his business into four restaurants, all doing well when Hurricane Katrina moved across the Crescent City in August 2005; subsequent flooding continued the damage the storm had started.

“I lost one restaurant and my home,” Hamezoboulos said. Natchez became his haven when he moved north with his family.

“I want the people of Natchez to know how much I appreciate them,” he said, describing strong support for him when he purchased the restaurant from former owners Guy Bass and David Browning, who renovated the building before opening the restaurant in the fall of 2004.

At first, Hamezoboulos moved slowly into the Greek menu, adding a few choices and then a few more. Now he has created a mostly Greek menu, he said. “Everyone wants me to change to all Greek,” he said.

What is the appeal of Greek food? “We are sophisticated about our food,” he said. “We use different spices. We use fresh and the very best ingredients.”

Hamezoboulos, pronounced hah-meh-ZOB-ellus, said Greek restaurants specialize in the finest food but also, “you’ll have the best time there, too.”

Natchez suits his family well, he said. He had grown tired of the crowds and noise of New Orleans and likes the lifestyle of Natchez. “I don’t want to be anywhere else,” he said.

The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday, 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. for dinner, and Thursday through Sunday for lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The telephone number is 601-442-1222.