CHESHIRE — Robert Morgan didn’t recognize Cheshire Pizza & Ale after eight months of renovation work, but still felt right at home at his favorite dining spot.
Minas Halkias, the founder of the business at 133 Highland Ave., retired last year after nearly 40 years and sold it to his son-in-law and daughter, Dimitrios Magriplis and Rita Halkias.
The couple wanted to revitalize the restaurant, which re-opened Saturday, and broaden its appeal while maintaining favorite recipes and the community atmosphere.
“When you come here a lot, you’re part of the family,” said Morgan, who has been eating at the restaurant for 30 years. “Jimmy (Magriplis) and Rita are carrying on that tradition.”
Minas Halkias started the business in the nearby Maplecroft Plaza and moved in 1991 to the building that was formerly St. Bridget’s Church. He still owns the building, which also includes China Moon and Salon Gary.
Rita Halkias grew up working at Cheshire Pizza and said her goal was always to carry on with the restaurant.
Magriplis also worked at the restaurant before taking ownership. Cheshire isn’t a dining destination, so their customers are people in town looking for a local place to eat. In addition to keeping the regular customers, Magriplis said he wants to attract others looking for a casual night out.
Magriplis and Halkias have three children, aged 7, 4 and 2 weeks. They’ve taken frustrations they’ve had as parents eating out and tried to fix those things with Cheshire Pizza.
“There’s changing tables in both restrooms,” Magriplis said.
He’s also worked to put together a robust kid’s menu, saying at many restaurants it’s an afterthought with few options beyond chicken tenders and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Entrees range from $15 to $20 with burgers or sandwiches in the $10 range. Magriplis said he wants the menu to be affordable enough for people to dine out more than once a week. The menu will expand with time. Fourteen beers are on tap, many recommended by patrons.
Everything in the restaurant has either been replaced or changed. Leo Hansen, a Naugatuck resident with L & R Builders, installed custom cabinets and paneled the walls in wood reclaimed from a barn.
He connected with Magriplis through a customer and now Hansen frequents the restaurant.
“The food is unbelievable,” Hansen said. “This will be our Wednesday night get together.”
Magriplis and Halkias said customers had been supportive during the eight months, some even coming by to lend a hand. They have many friends through the restaurant and said long hours at Cheshire Pizza make the regulars seem like family.
“For us it’s not just a business. It’s home,” Magriplis said. “It’s an extension of our home.”
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