There are two things you need to know about Tony Mirogiannis, owner of Newtonville’s Village Café:
- He is the proud doggie daddy of Goliath, a tough-on-the-outside, sweet-on-the-inside Pit Bull.
- The only thing Mirogiannis loves more than Goliath is giving his customers what he likes.
“If I don’t like it when I make it, I don’t want to sell it,” Mirogiannis states emphatically. “I love what I make. I have fun with it.”
When Mirogiannis bought the Village Café two and a half years ago, it was already a familiar locale to him. His parents, who had also owned Nick’s Pizza in Wellesley, had been the owners of Midnite House of Pizza, one of the Village Café’s previous incarnations.
His brothers had also been involved in the business and are the current owners of the North Ave Diner in Wakefield. In fact, the entire family helps each other out at all of their restaurant holdings and they all reside within a few blocks of each other in Arlington.
While the restaurant business may seem to run in the family, Mirogiannis hadn’t originally planned to be a part of it. He majored in Finance and minored in Economics at Suffolk University, and he spent over a decade in the banking industry.
But, as others who have made the same move from business to restaurant ownership have expressed, this didn’t excite Mirogiannis’ passion. And it wasn’t the kind of atmosphere in which he wanted to work, nor which he wanted to create for his workers.
“I wanted them to have fun when they come to work,” he muses. “And I wanted to have fun every day. There’s no reason you can’t come to work and have a good time, but still get stuff done. Things just seem to fall into place a lot better that way and it creates a better atmosphere.”
As often seems to be the case, Mirogiannis was ready to leave banking just as the Village Café went up for sale. Though he has been the owner since mid-2010, he hasn’t made many changes to the décor yet (though he says he would like to in the near future). But there is one area he has no intention of changing.
“I love this bar area here,” Mirogiannis says, gesturing widely down the counter that can seat a half-dozen patrons. “I walk right out and say hello to people. You get to know all about them, they know all about you. And I’ll talk forever about Goliath, of course.”
Mirogiannis has made changes to what the ten-table diner serves, however. As of October of last year, with the help of a graphic artist friend, Village Café debuted its new menu.
And it’s all about what you want.
One of the most popular “items” on the menu are the Pick ‘Ems. Customers can choose one, two, three or four items from the extensive list of breakfast selections. These include eggs, pancakes, waffles, breakfast meats, breads, fruit, granola and potatoes. You even get your choice of hot or cold beverage with your breakfast.
According to Mirogiannis, equally popular at lunchtime are wraps, subs, sandwiches and panini, which also come with the option of more or less creating a custom-made meal. While there are popular prescribed offerings such as the Village Panini (grilled chicken, baked ham, fresh mushrooms, provolone cheese and homemade pesto) and the Grilled Chicken Sandwich (chicken breast with lettuce, tomato and mayo on a brioche roll), since Mirogiannis makes everything from scratch it is easy to tailor every order to his customers’ whims.
Speaking of whimsy, while Mirogiannis has yet to put together a real kids’ menu for Village Café, there is one familiar item on the menu that is sure to delight even the pickiest young eater. Ants on a Log, the traditional snack of raisins and peanut butter on a celery stick, is listed among the sides on the regular menu. Mirogiannis laughingly acknowledges that it isn’t just the under-ten set that turns to this crunchy snack when hunger strikes.
While it is only open for breakfast and lunch, the Village Café has its share of regulars who come in several times a week- and sometimes twice a day, according to Mirogiannis. It is the opportunity to greet these customers, as well as the new ones who are just waiting to become regulars, that make Mirogiannis happy that he made the transition from banker to restaurateur.
“I can come in, I can open the doors every day, I can talk to my customers. That’s all I need,” Mirogiannis says with a wide smile.
Well, that and a big, lovable dog.