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International Restaurant Remembered


 

International Restaurant "The Golden Age"

The International Restaurant closed its doors exactly 20 years ago June 23, 1986. What a piece of trivia. Who would remember that? 20 years ago, where were you? Artist Jack (John) Slick can tell you where he was; and it has obviously left a lasting impression.

20 years ago, Jack was helping Kosta (Gus) Renieris to close his restaurant, a Greektown mainstay, and he has kept the restaurant's sign to prove it. The partners, Stelios (Steve) Mamalakis and Gus had served the community and created a special culture for the people they served. According to Jack, the time spent with Steve and Gus were part of a "Golden Age".

So Jack and his wife Dr. Lena Hatzichronoglou, and next door neighbors, and loyal customers, Stephen Goodfellow and wife, Dr. Laurenn Rowland, opened their Highland Park Studios to family, past customers, and friends to throw a surprise event honoring Gus and their memories of The International.

Lena shares that this culture and service to the community was unusual, "In Jack's and many other people's memory this was something unique and a truly special combination, and when The International closed down they never found something similar to replace their experience there."

Jack explains that his relationship with Gus has really lasted and the two even became when Jack married Lena, in 1999. Realizing that life is short, after the loss of Gus' partner Steve Mamalakis, last May, Jack along with co-hosts, Steve's son, Jimmy, and other family members, past customers, and friends, decided to join together to celebrate their friendship and memories. "During 2005, many of us former patrons had spoken among ourselves and the possibility of an "International Party" where we could all see Gus, Steve and Jimmy. A party where we could all re-connect." So Jack and Stephen made it happen, with the help Tina (nee) Andracke of Key West Florida, and Charalambos Efstathiou (Harry), Cyprus Coffee House, Olympia Restaurant, Athens Bar, and Fairfax Market.

Jack was especially pleased that Athena Mamalakis was able to attend. "Kyria Mamalakis was the International's spicing secret for its signature foods." A memorial was also prominently displayed as a tribute to Steve.

The International Restaurant was relatively obscure and was nestled in the middle of Monroe Avenue. No glitz, no bouzoukia, no neon signs; rather, a simple welcoming storefront announcing Greek Cuisine, served here.

Many of us can still remember their favorite dishes, taramosalata, souvlakia, and tzatziki to name a few, and of course not to over look the daily specials. But more important than food, was the sustenance that the group received for the soul. The International was the center, a congregating place to share food, and good times, served to each customer, as special guests who were being welcomed home by Gus, Steve and Jimmy.

The party was a surprise, and Gus was lured to the festivities under the guise of a World Cup Soccer celebration, only to find the two backyards, filled with well-wishers. He graciously, greeted visitors, and happily recalled past experiences with each of them.

Stephen Goodfellow shared that Gus was always there for a hungry artist. "I remember many a night spent at The International, and I'm glad that we could do this to honor Gus."

Jack's wife Lena and his sister Suzy, assisted with the food, and guests arrived with hands filled with endless specialties to share with the crowd.

Nick Prevas, of the Prevas Brothers Trio, was on hand with his accordion, and guests sang and danced to Greek favorites into the wee hours of the morning.

Jack's parting comment, "I believe the Greek community does not fully appreciate and understand the love and regard "we" non-Greeks had for Gus & Stelios and the International."
For a brief moment in time Jack recaptured youth, memories, blended together with the company, to rekindle memories lost, and now found.

Lena has posted several pictures on her website http://www.hellenicvisions.com/news.html
and Stephen has posted pictures at www.corridortribe.com/tribes/international
Tee Shirts commemorating the event are available, with proceeds going to the Alexander's Quest Foundation.

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