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Nicholas Pagonis talks about being a restaurant owner in the digital age

Nicholas Pagonis, the General Manager and co-owner of the Greek restaurant Paros NYC, spoke about being a restaurant owner and entrepreneur in the digital age.

Nicholas and George Pagonis
Nicholas and George Pagonis. Photo Courtesy of Paros NYC
Nicholas and George Pagonis. Photo Courtesy of Paros NYC

Nicholas Pagonis is the General Manager and co-owner of the Greek restaurant Paros NYC.

Pagonis spoke about being a restaurant owner and entrepreneur in the digital age. He also shared his advice for hopefuls that wish to go into the hospitality business.

Inspiration to open Paros NYC in Tribeca

Paros NYC first opened our doors on October 5, 2023, just a little bit over four months ago. Nicholas works alongside his brother, George Pagonis, who also serves as executive chef and co-owner.

“It is fun to be in this business with my brother George,” Nicholas said. “We both get along really nicely, and we are close in age. We have a good bond and that’s something you can trust, which is key.”

On his inspiration to open a Greek restaurant in Tribeca, Nicholas said, “George and I had a restaurant group in Washington, DC, and we came up to New York and opened a bunch of restaurants for another restaurant group. We decided to do it again, and we wanted to do Tribeca because it didn’t have any Greek restaurants there.”

His favorite dishes at Paros NYC

Nicholas listed the marinated “Lamb Chops” as his favorite dish at the restaurant, as well as the ‘Fagri’ fish (porgy) and hand-cut fries. “If I had to pick, those would be my  three favorites,” he said, prior to adding that the “Portokalopita” or “Orange cake” is his favorite dessert.

The digital age

On being an entrepreneur in the digital age, Nicholas said, “It is good; it’s different. I’ve seen it go from Twitter (X) to Instagram to TikTok, to having PR and social media presence.”

“These days, you need a really good social media digital manager. You need to make sure you have all those networks covered,” he added.

AI on the future of the industry

Nicholas also shared his thoughts on AI (artificial intelligence) on the future of the hospitality industry.

“I know it is crazy right now,” he said. “People are able to take digital pictures of other cooks, and who knows what will come next? I guess it’s good. It is still kind of new.”

“Culinary and the hospitality industry should remain human due to the human touch and human connection. AI would be good for a chain restaurant, if somebody is opening a new McDonald’s. For restaurants though, it’s different,” he explained.

Greek roots

Nicholas opened up about his Greek heritage. “My parents are both from Sparta,” he said.

“My mom came to North America at a young age,” he said. “My father stayed and did the military, and then he came over to the United States.”

“We have a Spartan background but when were little kids, one of my father’s brothers settled in Paros, and because of that, he built property there, and we’ve been going there for over 30 years now,” he elaborated.

I pretty much grew up going there every summer, and I saw the growth of the island every year,” he added.

Career-defining moments

When asked about his career-defining moments, Nicholas said, “Perhaps when I opened my first restaurant when I was 29 years old. I was young and I matured really quickly. I kept on going.”

Lessons learned from the restaurant business

Nicholas reflected on the lessons learned from the restaurant and hospitality industry. “The restaurant business taught me to be strong, honest, and humble,” he said.

“Hard work always pays off as long as you are willing to work hard, you can do anything. I say that to a lot of the staff as well. If we all put in the effort together, we can progress together,” he explained.

Advice for hopefuls that wish to go into the hospitality industry

For hopefuls that wish to go into the hospitality industry, professionally, Nicholas said, “Be willing to put in the hours. If you don’t want to put in the hours and if you don’t want to do the work, then don’t do it.”

“Also, get the experience first. Don’t put your whole life savings into it if you’ve never done it before,” he said.

“There is one thing to be a diner and then wanting to open up a restaurant, and it’s another thing to be in the business and to know the business before getting into it,” he acknowledged.

Stage of his life

On the title of the current chapter of his life, Nicholas said, “Making it in the Big Apple.”

Taylor Swift

This past December, he had the good fortune to have Taylor Swift dine at his restaurant, and the news went viral, which was covered in People Magazine and Vogue.

“That was good; it was nice to have Taylor dine here,” Nicholas said. “Taylor is probably the biggest celebrity right now in the world. It was great to have her in and we hope to see her again soon.”

Success

On his definition of the word success, Nicholas said, “Success means being happy with what you do. If you are not happy with what you are doing, and you are miserable, then you are not even successful anymore.”

Gratitude to New York patrons and supporters

Nicholas expressed his gratitude to the Paros NYC patrons and supporters. “Everyone has been super receptive here in Tribeca, people are happy for us to be here and we are very happy to be here. It feels like a Cinderella story where the shoe fits; everything is going good so far,” he concluded.

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 21,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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