Love, Food, Family cover

Love, Food, Family

By Patricia Murray DiBona '84

Photos By Kathleen Dooher

Regis Today Spring 2018

Regis alumnae Amy Bantos Tiglianidis ’98 and Tina Bantos Tiglianidis ’99 are sisters and co-workers who have successfully melded work, family life, and their Greek heritage. Along with their husbands, who are brothers, they are the owners of The Feisty Greek, a popular restaurant in Norwood, Massachusetts.

It was 1998 and Regis’ senior black-tie dance was approaching. Tina Bantos Tiglianidis ’99, a Regis junior, decided that her sister, senior Amy Bantos Tiglianidis ’98, needed a date.

“I told her I was an independent woman and was going with friends,” Amy recalls. But Tina was insistent. She called her childhood friend George Tiglianidis and inquired if his older brother had a girlfriend. As luck would have it, Kostas—known as Charlie—was single and more than happy to escort Amy to the dance.

Go Greek once a week - The Feisty Greek Norwood, MA

And the rest, as Tina says, is history. Charlie and Amy began dating and Tina soon realized George was more than just a friend. The Bantos sisters—always close—became even closer when they married the Tiglianidis brothers. They grew their careers and welcomed children, at one point sharing a multi-family home.

In 2011, the family bond strengthened as the couples embarked on a new business venture together. They became the owners of The Feisty Greek, a Norwood, Massachusetts, eatery that honors their shared Greek heritage and gives a nod to the family’s lively patriarch. It was to be a labor of love and a practical financial means to support two growing families.

First-Generation Expectations

Amy and Tina, first-generation Greek Americans, credit immigrant parents for their drive to succeed. Their parents came to the United States in the 1960s where they met and later married. “Our dad hoped to study aeronautical engineering,” Tina recalls. “He was very intelligent and could fix anything.”

Food cooking on the grill with flames in the background

But, like many Greek immigrants, Sotiris Bantos fell into the restaurant business and remained there for the rest of his life. “We would hear him leave our house in Dedham early in the morning and return home late at night,” she says of her father who passed away in 2009.

“Keeping the family tight-knit was our father’s biggest wish and that was where our mother, Anna, came in,” says Amy. “She was the constant figure in our lives, never allowing Tina, our brother, Georgio, or me to miss school events or sports, or life’s small moments. She spent hours teaching us to write and read, singing and dancing with us, and taking us on nightly walks.” It was through Anna that Tina learned to cook many of the Greek dishes she makes today.

Sotiris and Anna wanted a better life for their children and knew education was the answer. They were adamant that their children attend college—though American college life was an unknown for the traditional Greek Orthodox family. “Our father was very strict. We weren’t allowed to go out. We weren’t allowed to date. And no way could we live at college in the dorms,” says Amy with a laugh.

A family affair (left to right): Charlie Tiglianidis, Amy Bantos Tiglianidis '98, Tina Bantos Tiglianidis '99, and George Tiglianidis.

But Amy managed to accompany her best friend on an overnight trip to Regis during high school—with few expectations. “Regis wasn’t on my radar though I was happy to get a night away,” she says. She recalls being instantly captivated. “When my dad learned Regis was my first choice, he drove to campus alone. He liked what he saw and realized I’d be safe. He grudgingly said, ‘OK, you can go’.”

The spacious, sit-down environment—where strains of Greek music play overhead and greetings of “Yassas!” are plentiful—is fresh and fun, reflective of a younger generation of Greek Americans.

Amy was elated. The first member of her family to attend college, she was awarded a four-year Presidential Scholarship that required her to maintain a 3.7 GPA. “I worked in the financial aid office and at the Children's Center to alleviate costs,” says Amy, who majored in psychology, minored in sociology, and earned an early childhood education certificate. “Regis was the perfect transition from home for me. It was small enough so I felt I was with family but diverse enough that I experienced a taste of the real world.”

When it was Tina’s turn to choose a college, she was up against Regis’ biggest fan—Sotiris. “Your sister goes there. You’re going there,” recalls Tina of her father’s directive. Tina wasn’t convinced until she attended Orientation. Envisioning a climb up the corporate ladder, Tina majored in management and minored in communications. “I made lifelong friends,” Tina says. “Regis shaped me into the strong person I am today.”

Amy Bantos Tiglianidis '98

Careers and Kids

After graduating from Regis, Amy worked in admissions at Babson College. In 2001, she and Charlie married and Amy began a master’s program in child development at Tufts University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. “It was surreal to be sitting in class and hear I was selected from thousands of applicants,” she says.

Amy found juggling marriage, working full time, and attending a full-time graduate program difficult. She decided to put school on hold after completing her first year, intending to return the following fall until discovering she was pregnant. John was born in 2003 and twins Sotiris and Areti in 2006.

“Leaving graduate school is my biggest regret,” Amy admits. “I hope to return one day.”

While Amy managed a busy home life and part-time human resources job at Robert Reiser & Company, Tina began building her career at FM Global in Norwood. The insurance company was located across the street from the Orchard Café, owned by John and Areti Tiglianidis, Amy’s in-laws and the parents of Tina’s then-boyfriend George.

As Tina progressed at FM Global working in policy and processing and later as a corporate trainer, she and George married and had Alexander and Niko. Like Amy, Tina made adjustments as life changed and family responsibilities grew. When she learned her company was relocating, Tina took a job working remotely for an internet marketing company.

The Feisty Greek is Born

When John and Areti Tiglianidis were ready to retire in 2009 after running the Orchard Café for several decades, it was only natural for their sons, George and Charlie, to take over.

“While it was an exciting opportunity, the four of us knew we needed to regroup and make firm decisions if the restaurant was to succeed—and sustain two families,” Amy says.

Due to competition from restaurant chains at nearby Legacy Place and the Walpole Mall, specialization would be key. “Our wheels began turning,” Tina explains. “We started to think about a Greek restaurant concept. Greek food is what we love and know best. It’s what we were brought up on and what we prepare for our own families.”

The Tiglianidis families rented space next door to the Orchard Café, staying close to their customer base. They secured financing and purchased equipment. “We started from scratch, designing and building our new restaurant while still running the Orchard Café,” Tina says. “We shut down the café and two weeks later opened The Feisty Greek.”

Tina knew from her marketing experience that branding was important. “We needed an identity that would stand out—a catchy name and a great logo. ‘The Feisty Greek’ gives homage to our father-in-law.”

The Feisty Greek - Lively Food, Lively People

The Feisty Greek logo (left) is a caricature of Amy and Tina’s father-in-law, John Tiglianidis.

And the logo? A caricature of anaproned John sharpening his carving knife (right).

The restaurant walls, painted in shades of Santorini blue, feature artwork with John’s cartoon likeness at the Parthenon, playing a bouzouki and astride a donkey. The spacious, sit-down environment—where strains of Greek music play overhead and greetings of “Yassas!” are plentiful—is fresh and fun, reflective of a younger generation of Greek Americans.

With kids in tow, Amy, Tina, their husbands, and their in-laws spent hours testing family recipes passed down through generations. Their robust, authentic menu includes traditional Greek favorites made in-house using fresh ingredients—from pastitsio and spanakopita to stuffed grape leaves and John’s lemon chicken orzo soup. The sisters honor their dad by preparing rizogalo just as he did.

The crowning glory is the gyro, a pita wrap filled with meat, tzatziki sauce, and toppings. The Feisty Greek prepares them the traditional way—with pork—tucking french fries into the pita. A visiting chef from Greece taught the family how to marinate, shave, and stack their gyros.

Recipe for Success

Five-star reviews are evidence of The Feisty Greek’s success. But an even better indicator, according to Amy and Tina, is the way the extended Tiglianidis family has learned to work together.

Tina Bantos Tiglianidis '99

“There are times when tensions are high at the restaurant,” admits Tina, who prepares and cooks food, bantering in Greek with her in-laws. “There’s banging and shouting, but it’s comical. We’ve learned to laugh and keep things on an even keel, managing personalities and finding a balance.”

For Amy and Tina, work-life balance has been their lifeblood. “During Feisty’s first years, I’d have the kids during the day while Tina worked at the restaurant,” Amy recalls. “Then she’d watch them evenings when I worked. It was constant teamwork.”

In 2014, The Feisty Greek was on even footing with day-to-day operations run by Tina, Charlie, and George. “I took on more of a caregiver role for our five kids, filling in at the restaurant as needed,” says Amy.

When she was offered the chance to return to her vocation in early childhood education as a paraprofessional in the Dedham Public Schools, Amy knew the timing was right. She began as a substitute and now holds a full-time position. “I’m so thankful I was able to reenter the education field,” she says.

Co-parenting continues as a way of life for the busy Bantos sisters. “Last week, Sotiri was sick and I couldn’t get John at soccer practice. So, Tina did,” says Amy. “Our parents taught us to stick together and be allies. At the end of the day, it’s our love, respect, and faith in each other that makes us successful.”

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