Almost immediately after buying the popular Portofino's Greek & Italian Restaurant in East Ridge, Cleveland, Tennessee-based business partners Tony Giannourakis and Antonio Zakkas knew they'd need to either make some serious improvements to the building they were leasing or move.
Sitting inside their current location, and later inside their new, under-construction site, which is located just 100 yards further East on Ringgold Road, they both said they knew they had purchased a good business when they bought the more than 30-year-old eatery in 2017, "because we did our homework," Giannourakis said. He added that like any old structure, there were issues.
"We knew the food was good and people liked it, but it needs work."
The new site is located next to the Waffle House and Cracker Barrel near Mack Smith Road. Like its older sibling, it is ideally situated near the Interstates 75/24 interchange and gets lots of drive-by traffic, Zakkas said. However, the older building needs expensive work, and the outside is dated and people who didn't know about it would drive by, he added.
"Anyone that came in would love it," he said.
Portofino's Greek & Italian Restaurant getting new, larger home in East Ridge
Giannourakis said the two partners, who formerly owned a Gondolier in Cleveland, started making plans to move to a new building almost immediately after buying the place. This was before the growth explosion surrounding Camp Jordan and the nearby Chattanooga Red Wolves soccer stadium became realities.
"There was nothing going on then," he said about the now booming area. "We knew the time to move on was happening for us, but now we think it is an even better time and opportunity."
Their new landlord will be local businessman Emerson Russell, a Portofino's regular, Giannourakis said. While the old space has almost 5,000-square-feet of space, the new space will be somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 square feet and will have an upstairs with a bar, dining area and a patio.
The new building is coming along and is currently essentially closed in with a roof and most of the siding and windows in place, but inside, it is mostly insulation and studs. Giannourakis said he hopes it will be open sometime in July.
If You Go
* What: Portofino’s Greek & Italian Restaurant, 6407 Ringgold Road* Phone: 423-499-9696* Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Sunday* Quick bites: Lasagna is by far the most popular dish on the extensive menu, with Spaghetti being the next most popular. Sandwiches and gyros are next followed by hamburgers, which are made fresh with hand-patted beef.
Everything from the design to the decor will be brand new, the two said, and seating will double to almost 250 seats, with about 30 of those being outside. The kitchen will grow just a little, Giannourakis said, but it will be more streamlined and will include a walk-in cooler and freezer, something they do not currently have.
Only wine and beer is offered at the new location, but with the new bar, a full offering of spirits will be added.
Giannourakis said this is a move that the two and their patrons have been looking for.
"We are ready for this," he said. "People like new stuff and everything will be new."
Except for the menu.
Giannourakis said the two didn't change the menu, which is filled with a variety of pizzas ($10.95-$22.95), pastas ($9.95-$15.50), veal ($14.95), seafood ($10.95-$17.95), steak dishes ($10.95-$13.50), salads ($3.95-$8.95), sandwiches ($7) and desserts ($4.25-$8.50).
Giannourakis said he's tweaked some of the recipes and he added a baked potato to complement the steak dishes.
"People love them," he said of the potatoes.