by Debbie Tuma
It’s sad when Montauk loses any long-time member of its tight-knit community, but Anthony Stavropoulos was a true local legend. There is hardly a person in Montauk, or from out of town for that matter, who hasn’t eaten breakfast or lunch at Anthony’s Pancake House on Main Street, or before that, when he owned the old Circle Luncheonette, across from the village green.
I think we will all miss Anthony, who died on April 6, at the age of 94. Although he retired only about three years ago, after almost 70 years in the restaurant business, I’m sure his customers miss seeing his smiling face at the counter, chatting with all who stopped by. He loved people and sharing stories and local gossip with his clientele. At Anthony’s Pancake House, he was in the center of town, only a few blocks from the ocean, and the coffee was always on.
And many of his friends and family remembered him with photos and stories at a wake held on April 10 at Yardley & Pino Funeral Home in East Hampton. A funeral service was held on April 11 at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons in Southampton, and for his service in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1955, he was given a military funeral, followed by a burial in Cedar Lawn Cemetery in East Hampton.
Anthony Stavropoulos, whose relatives also owned a string of Greek coffee shops from East Hampton to Riverhead, was born at home in East Hampton in 1928. His parents, Helen and George Stavropoulos, started the East Hampton Tea Room back in the 1920’s, where Eric Firestone Gallery is now located, on Newtown Lane. They also started the former East Hampton Candy Kitchen, further up the street. Anthony’s uncle, Spiro Stavropoulos, started the Bridgehampton Candy Kitchen back then, and his aunt, Marina Stavropoulos Meras and her husband Nick, started the Star Confectionery Lunceonette in Riverhead. All of these have survived, except for the East Hampton Candy Kitchen, and all serve breakfast and lunch, and some even still make their own homemade chocolate rabbits for Easter.
Anthony graduated from East Hampton High School, and then went to Adelphi University to study business. He also attended Parsons School of Design in New York City. He opened The Circle Luncheonette in Montauk during the 1950’s.
His niece, Elaine Lifton, formerly of Massapequa Park and East Hampton, who now lives in Bloomfield, Connecticut, said she worked for Anthony back then, and remembers how busy it was.
“We were always packed for breakfast and lunch, but Anthony was always sociable, and liked to be around people,” she said. “He also knew all the restaurant owners, and took me out to eat and hear music.”
Elaine said Anthony loved music and dancing. “He was a terrific dancer,” she said. “And he also loved spending time with his nieces and nephews.”
She also said Anthony loved his two long- time employees, Jane DeSousa and Diana Carillo. “They were good friends to him, and he was so happy when Diana bought his restaurant. He continued to go there every day,” she said.
Both Jane DeSousa and Diana Carillo said Anthony was “a great boss,” and Diana added that she’s grateful he gave her the opportunity to take over the business, and that she still uses his family recipes.
“I started to work with Tony in March of 1979, for 43 years, and he was like another Dad to me,” said Jane DeSousa.
Jason Lifton, Anthony’s grandnephew from Brooklyn, said his uncle had a quirky sense of humor. “He loved joking around in Greek, and at any event he would always be the last person to leave, because no matter how old he got, he always danced.”
Ironically, even though he had his own Greek restaurant, Lifton said Anthony loved to eat at John Papas Cafe.
Former 30-year owner, John Papas, of East Hampton and Greece, said he enjoyed seeing Anthony come into his former John Papas Cafe restaurants in both Montauk and East Hampton. “He was such a nice guy…we often talked about food and also about Greece,” said Papas.
Besides his niece Elaine Lifton and his grandnephew Jason Lifton, Anthony Stavropoulos is survived by his niece Joan Andromidas of Punta Gorda, Florida; his grandniece Deborah Lifton of West Hartford, Connecticut; his great grandniece Maria Gurvich of West Hartford, Connecticut; and his great grand nephews, Niko and Harry Lifton, of Brooklyn.
On a personal note, I will say that I loved working with Anthony at the old Circle Luncheonette in Montauk as a waitress during high school in 1968. I will never forget the tourist buses pulling up on summer weekends, and the crowds filling the place up all at once. The waitresses were rushing and panicking and Anthony was calmly chatting away at the register, like he was greeting everyone at his own a big party.