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Greek-style pizza offered in Inner Southeast

by: RITA A. LEONARD - At OPA Pizzaria on S.E. 13th, owners Tony & Suzi Karagounis display their Greek style pizza, at left, and their football-sized calzoni.“Opa” is the Greek word for “celebrate”, and at OPA Pizzaria, 8000 S.E. 13th Avenue, you can now celebrate with pizza. Owned by Tony & Suzi Karagounis, the new restaurant that moved in when the Sellwood Pizza Kitchen moved out, offers many Greek flavors that add a twist to this traditionally Italian food. Dolmas, gyros, calzones and baklava are listed among their gourmet pizzas, soups and sandwiches, beer and wine.

Tony Karagounis grew up in Evia, Greece, but moved to Alaska at age 19 to work in a cousin's Italian restaurant. There he learned the business from the bottom up, finally opening his own pizza restaurant in Palmer. He added a cucumber-yogurt tzatziki sauce and marinara to his dishes, and created a buttery dough recipe and Greek pizzas that customers loved.

When asked if he ever used Alaskan moose, bear, or caribou meat in his pizzas, Karagounis laughed. “No, I used regular ingredients. Here, we rely on local ingredients, and we also offer gluten-free pizza and beer.” He eventually moved to Bend, after fourteen years in Palmer, with his Oregonian wife, Suzi, where they ran a restaurant for a decade.

After recently moving to Portland, they decided to open a pizza restaurant in Sellwood because they loved the area. “In addition to our pizza, people also like our Greek bread with mozzarella and feta cheese baked inside, our dolmas [grape leaves stuffed with seasoned rice] and dipping sauce, and our football-sized calzones [like a stuffed, folded-over pizza].”

Their daughter Kristina now works with them in the restaurant. “We have a whole new menu, with lunch and dinner,” says Suzi. “We can cook a pizza in 9 minutes, and even customize it. In response to suggestions, we’ve bought a new display warmer machine to offer pizza by the slice. Customers who eat-in can watch sports on our 42-inch plasma TV, but many just want a slice to go, while they wander and shop.”

In the spring, OPA Pizzaria plans to double the seating area by opening a door onto S.E. Nehalem Street, and offering outdoor seating under an awning. “We’ve noticed that shoppers along S.E. 13th Avenue like to eat outdoors, and we want to offer that option here, too,” she says. The store’s telephone number is 503/238-7255.