Asians own take out places, Koreans get into food markets, Italians buy pizza places and Greeks, well Greek open diners. Maybe they are not afraid to work hard and maybe they have a lot to give.
After all these columns it was high time to go visit the Dimas family who are the Greek American owners of Williston Town House on Hillside Avenue. . Spiros Dimas and his wife Buffy have owned the diner for many years. Nowadays their son Tim runs the place and the parents and sister work at the Old Westbury Diner which they also own. Tim is a graduate in journalism from St. Johns University and recently worked at Newsday before he came into the family business.
I sat down with Tim last week to get to know him and his diner. I love that fact that they invested in that fountain with all the flowers in front. Tim told me they try to instill an atmosphere of warmth and coziness. They have fresh food and their own baked goods as well. Whenever I go have lunch or breakfast there you can see it’s a bustling place that people come to on a regular basis. And I like their counter where you can get fast service and also meet some town’s folk if you like.
The Dimas’ are Greek just like clearly as Harry of Harry’s Deli is Greek. These are big and warm and friendly people. Reminiscent of big film characters like Zorba of Zorba the Greek , Nia Vardalos who wrote and starred in My Big Fat Greek Wedding or the late great actor director John Casavettes. This larger than life personality is what they have brought to America. They are humble and giving and not afraid to work diners rather than be owners of some haute cuisine restaurant.
Tim emphasized that point many times during the interview and that is why the Williston Town House is a local institution. In a way it is a simple place that fits in well in our simple town. Pure Middle America. But do not be fooled into thinking that these humble Greeks are in any way simple minded. Tim is a journalism graduate with an active and clear mind.
This family reminded me of the final segment in the film Paris Je t’aime. That six minute segment called 17e Arrondissement is one of my favorite moments of movie watching and I have reviewed it more than twenty times. The brief segment was written and directed by the Greek American film maker Constantine Alexander Payne. In it he creates a role for the middle aged actress Margo Martindale. She plays a humble and simple fifty year old letter carrier from Denver who visits Paris on her own for six days. She then returns home and recites to her French class in her halting French what she learned on her trip to Paris. This segment is so profoundly moving in its simplicity, its humanity and its heart that only a director of sheer genius could have written it. That may be what Greeks bring to America and bring to Williston Park as well. They present as humble souls but bring with them a bigness and a sweetness and a warmth. Williston Town House, Our Big Fat Greek Diner right in our own backyard. Lucky us.