By Lori Kersey of the West Virginia Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A longtime Charleston-area restaurant owner has added a new eatery to Dudley Farms Plaza along Corridor G.

Manoli Stavrulakis’ latest venture, Pizza Barbarossa, serves Greek-Italian style food including pizza. The restaurant opened a few weeks ago.

“This is an exciting situation, except that I work too much,” Stavrulakis said.

Now that he and his wife, Aoleen, own three Charleston-area restaurants, it’s easy to understand why. The native of Greece and his Iraqi wife also own Café Creperi in Kanawha City and Creperi Café Plus in the Shoppes at Trace Fork in South Charleston.

The wait staff at Pizza Barbarossa use iPods to place orders.

Stavrulakis said his dream of owning a Greek-Italian-style restaurant started a while ago when he first opened Café Creperi.

He considered serving pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven, but ultimately went with a brick oven style.

Getting the three-layer oven to the Dudley Farms location wasn’t an easy feat. Stavrulakis and a friend drove a truck to Taylor, Texas, to pick it up. They purchased it from a cake-making business that bought the machine and later discovered that it could not be used to bake cakes.

The new pizza shop is located in part of the former Shoe Carnival location.

Light green paint and art now cover the walls, a stark contrast to what the place used to look like, he said.

“It’s been stressful for me,” Stavrulakis said of the three months it’s taken to build out the restaurant.

Stavrulakis said most of the stress comes in the time before a restaurant opens. It’s the small details that take the most time, he said.

“We work really hard,” he said. “I mean, sometimes we go home at 2 o’clock in the morning.”

Stavrulakis has worked in the restaurant business for years, beginning in his home country. He and Aoleen opened Mykonos Cafe in downtown Charleston in 1999. The Capitol Street restaurant closed in 2005.

“We made some mistakes there and we paid for those mistakes,” Stavrulakis said.

Fans of Mykonos Cafe will be happy to hear that Stavrulakis has incorporated some of the items from the old menu to the new eatery.

The new place serves the same calamari, bread, dressings and spaghetti as well as chicken Alfredo and chicken Marsala. A few items have been added to round out the small menu. Stavrulakis said he may add items to the simple menu later on.

With the new restaurant, Stavrulakis and the staff are trying out the use of iPads and iPods for taking orders. The technology also handles the restaurant’s inventory list, as well as tips and timecards for the wait staff.

“We are very excited,” he said of the technology. “Some have never seen something like this before, and we don’t know if anyone else in Charleston is doing it.”

A friend from Greece, Michael Kalogerakis, came to South Charleston to help Stavrulakis run the new place. He has years of experience in the industry, Stavrulakis said.

“I was going to make it perfect,” Stavrulakis said. “I didn’t want to make a lot of mistakes; that’s why I brought somebody to give me extra help.”

Stavrulakis isn’t sure how long Kalogerakis will stay.

Between running the restaurants and being parents to two preteen boys, life is busy for Stavrulakis and his wife. A typical day finds both working until late in the evening, he said.

“We have to work out [our schedules] with the kids,” Stavrulakis said. “That’s the only problem we have, to be honest with you.”

While opening a restaurant is easy, the real task is staying open, he said.

Part of what makes it so difficult is pleasing the customers, who change from day to day, Stavrulakis said.

“Every day you have a different people,” he said. “And every day the same customer is not the same people. Maybe today she is mad for something, or she’s happy. Or, or, or.

“So it’s on you to understand how you treat the people and what they want every single different day.”

Then there’s the food.

“You have to know what’s going on with the market around you and it depends on what you know and how you make it,” he said. “You should adjust that thing to make people love and to enjoy your food. It’s important what kind of ingredients you use.”

In the restaurant business, it’s important to take care of customers, he said.

“If you don’t take care of them every day, someday they’re going to leave you,” he said. “As soon as your restaurant business goes down, you’ll never go up again. That’s my philosophy, and that I know from years, years, years. That’s why I try all the time to do my best.”

Despite his and his wife’s life of work in the industry, Stavrulakis says he’s encouraging his sons Chris, 11, and Alex, 10, to pick a different career when the time comes.

There’s no time for a personal life when you work in the food industry, he said.

“If something happens and they don’t follow school or whatever, then they can go into the restaurant business. But it’s not what they are looking for.”

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.