For generations, Chicago’s immigrant food culture has been shaped by its Greek influences.
Local public television channel WTTW recently featured two family-run businesses that create flatbreads for their respective ethnic communities, but have also expanded into mainstream America’s consciousness, and grocery store shelves.
Grecian Delight Foods, which is featured in the segment, is a shining example of this tradition. The Elk Grove Village-based Mediterranean foods company has spent more than three decades providing some of Chi-town’s best Greek flavors, including pita bread — its number one speciality after its signature gyros.
Not only is its production true to tradition, but its origins are as well.
The company’s president and CEO Peter Parthenis told Chicago Tonight about his father Peter Senior who immigrated to Chicago from Greece as a teen and waited tables to pay for college.
“When he started the company he was really a true pioneer by really being the first in the U.S. to manufacture and sell traditional Greek street food, which is called the gyro,” Parthenis said. “So you got the pita, the gyro and the tzatziki, which is the king of street food in Greece.”
Parthenis also said his father believed the gyro would be a hit in the American Greek food scene and that he convinced his fellow Greek immigrant restaurant owners to believe so as well.
“I remember him telling me, I would watch the consumers eat the product and he would see the expressions on the customers faces, saying wow, you know, they enjoyed it,” Parthenis said. “So then he just started going restaurant to restaurant and asking customers to see if he could make the product for them.”
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