THANK YOU for joining us today—and for being a part of a decades-long neighborhood tradition. On behalf of owner Bob Theodosiadis, his son Theo and all the staff, we welcome you to The Original Alps Restaurant.We know you’ll enjoy your stay!
Bob himself knows a thing or two about staying power, what it takes to keep customers happy, and to keep them coming back. That the Original Alps has so long been a part of the Irving Park neighborhood is testimony to that.The Alps first opened at 71st and Exchange. In the mid-1960s, the store moved to the northeast corner of Broadway and Irving Park Road.
Here, Bob started his Alps career as a cook soon after emigrating with his family from Thessaloniki, Greece. After about six months in the kitchen, Bob graduated to night manager, then in 1970, to partner in the business. In 1975 he became sole owner. He has never looked back.
Under Bob’s leadership, the Alps has earned a strong reputation for good food, great service, reasonable prices, and a warm and welcoming atmosphere.Theo continues the family tradition, working alongside his father in the business.
The Original Alps restaurant has always been a special place. It’s the people who make it that way, Bob says. He should know—as do his customers. From the neighborhood “regulars” to all the satisfied customers who bring their friends and family back for more, together we make The Original Alps what it is.
Our thanks for being a part of it!
Bob Theo has been a fixture at the Alps for so long that it’s hard to believe he’s ever worked anywhere else. The restaurant was far from his first job, though, or even his original profession. And Chicago is not his hometown.
Haralambos Theodosiadis was born in Greece, in the beautiful port city of Thessaloniki, and began working as a salesman at the age of thirteen, selling cashmere and other products. Although he’d never visited the U.S., he’d always heard good things about the country, and in 1969, when Greek friends in Chicago agreed to sponsor him, he moved here with his wife, Demitra, and their son, Ted. (Daughter Gia was born in 1983. After three months in Boston, Bob and his family moved to Chicago, settling in Logan Square.
Bob’s first job in Chicago was at National (now Mary Ann) Bakery, on Central Avenue at the expressway. Although the bakery paid well, he found the night shift too solitary – ” want to be around people” – and went to work at the Table, a Greek restaurant at Clark and Lake. He started as a dishwasher, and after six months of observing the cooks, became one himself. When the restaurant burned down in an electrical fire (“20° below, on a Saturday”), a friend of Bob’s helped him get a job as a cook at another Greek-owned restaurant called the Alps.
The Alps was originally located at 71st and Exchange, then in the mid 1960s moved to the northeast corner of Broadway and Irving Park Road. When the owners, brothers-in-law Gus Christopoulos and Frank Godinas, relocated the restaurant to Independence Park in 1969, they christened it Alps West.
Around six months after Bob started, Frank bought out Gus and installed Bob as night manager. Bob had been learning English on the job, but was happy to find “lots of Greeks in the kitchen.” In 1970 Frank made Bob his partner; and in 1975, Bob bought out Frank and became sole owner. (In the late ’80s Bob expanded his empire to 2012 W. Irving Park Road, where he opened the Alps East; after a year or so, he followed Frank’s example and sold the restaurant to two of his employees.) Bob continued the Alps family tradition: Demitra has worked with him for years, and both Ted and Gia have spent time in the restaurant.
When Bob first came to the Alps, the restaurant was open 24 hours. Bob soon moved the closing time to 11 p.m., then in 2002 (‘in my old age,” he says), when new ethnic restaurants in the neighborhood began to compete for his evening business, scaled back to serving breakfast and lunch only. His new hours 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., seven days a week- are not only shorter, but allow him complete control, since he can now manage the restaurant from open to close.
In 2005, a bank made Bob an offer for the Alps space; the deal was attractive, and he thought he might retire. Bob’s “retirement” turned out to be only a break. The bank went in just after Mother’s Day 2005 and closed in April 2009; Bob bought the restaurant back and remodeled, nearly doubling its size and installing all new appliances and furnishings, and reopened in October 2009. He kept the mainstays of his menu while expanding his offerings, and he adjusted his recipes to reflect contemporary dining trends- for example, the omelets are now made with fresh spinach rather than frozen..
Bob’s favorite part of his job has always been his customers. “I always had nice customers,” he says. “They were always nice to me, and I was always nice to them.” Bob’s niceness has extended beyond the restaurant with his generous contributions to the Gourmet Pancake Breakfast and other neighborhood events.
In 1975 Bob and his family left Logan Square for a condo at Harlem and Diversey; five years later, they moved to Arlington Heights. Bob doesn’t mind the commute, but still rues passing up a house for sale just a few doors down Monticello from the Alps.
After the bank sale Bob bought a little house on the ocean in Thessaloniki. Next year, he’ll finally take a vacation and return to Greece for three weeks. While he’s gone, the Alps will be closed. “I wouldn’t want anyone else running the place,” Bob says. His customers wouldn’t either. _ Susan Harris