With a blue apron casually slung around his waist, Peter Michaelidis wipes down the last table of the evening prior to heading home. His disheveled dark hair perches on top of a tired face as he slumps into a chair, absentmindedly watching the game on Sports Center. His weariness is warranted—he spent the day feeding swarms of drooling mouths before catering to two separate swim teams. Giving him the chance to temporarily prop his feet up, he savors the repose with a light-hearted grin. Even though he’s spent, his face never betrays anything but bright eyes and a carefree smile.
As he and a fellow employee volley absurd predictions about the football game, one last straggler shuffles into Boston House of Pizza and Peter resumes his position behind the counter. Dr. Don Lucas withdraws his hands from the pockets of his leather jacket and throws one over to Pete, an obvious invitation to shake it. He is a husky and balding trombone professor at Boston University who has been a regular customer at “BHOP” for quite some time. Professor Lucas chuckles giddily when he places his order of steak tips ‘to-go’, nostalgically remembering the days when Peter used him to test new food experiments.
“It’s always amusing to be his guinea pig,” the professor sighed in his Texan drawl. “When he goes off the menu, it gets interesting.”
Blushing a little, the cook tries to stand up for his culinary creations, but instead lets out his notoriously high-pitched giggle as a defense. Peter continues to chuckle as he prepares his prized steak tips and the two banter back and forth over the counter; their most amusing raillery focused on the temperature of Dr. Lucas’ bald head during the cold winter months in Boston and a haircut of Peter’s that went dreadfully wrong.
Just before handing the steaming carryout box to Professor Lucas, the folds of Peter’s forehead crease as his eyebrows rise appreciatively. “You sure are a character, man. People like you make the day go by, for real.”
Peter Michaelidis didn’t attend Boston University, yet he can remember and recite most of the names and orders of Boston University professors, officials, and students, like Professor Don Lucas. While providing a place where interesting people with interesting stories can dine together, he and the restaurant also supply a setting of stability in the middle of a buzzing metropolitan area.
Growing up in Roslindale, Massachusetts, Peter was never far from the busy atmosphere of the city. With a love for pizza and an interest in meeting new people, he would follow his father to his work on the weekends and after school. His dad’s pizza place, dubbed Fast Eddy’s, was family owned and operated, located in the busy streets of Boston. Staying mostly behind the scenes as he worked, he was able to gain a great deal of experience ranging from food preparation to the organization of important paperwork. Those skills learned as a developing chef de cuisine comes in handy now as he helps to run Boston House of Pizza as one of the main cooks.
After working at Fast Eddy’s for the entirety of his high school days, his father became ill; the family decided it would be best to close shop, so Peter chose to go work with his uncle, the owner of BHOP. Now 35, he’s been making friends and adding to the menu with his frequent food-based ingenuities ever since. Peter jokes that when Professor Don Lucas isn’t around to be his guinea-pig, he trudges through Boston’s wintry elements to bother the next-door neighbors until they agree to be test subjects. After being questioned as to why the neighbors had to be forced to try his new creations, he is quick to add, “I mean, you know. It’s mostly all good!”
Not satisfied with just the opinions of customers and neighbors, Peter always manages to find a way to coax the family members who work with him to try out his experiments too. George Michaelidis, Peter’s first cousin, is six years older and recently took ownership of the shop from his parents. Having worked with him for the past 15 years, George has experienced his fair share of unique menu items produced by Peter. His most memorable and enjoyable was the chef’s breakfast pizza, complete with scrambled eggs and chunks of link sausage on top of a soft, French-toast style crust.
Aside from his food excursions, George accounts for Peter’s exceptional work ethic; he’s an amazingly hard worker with the tendencies of a perfectionist behind the counter. While Peter is busy in the back of the restaurant, George admits that if Peter were to take a day off, two other people would be needed to efficiently take his place.
“Yeah, well, he’s good and all, but you know, he likes to be in control,” George says loud enough for Peter to hear him from the back as a smirk creeps across his face. “He’s like a woman.”
A laugh erupts in the background, followed by a loud, “Riiiiiiight George.”
Even though Peter enjoys the relationships with his current customers and fellow- family-member-employees, he has hopes to some day open up his own pizza place. Although he’s tried once or twice before, he feels that some day in the future he’ll really be ready for the endeavor; he’s optimistic and excited about the possibilities that lie ahead of him in the restaurant industry. If and when Peter does decide to go ahead with his restaurant idea, it’ll be a tough move—from finding a suitable location to coming up with the cash, there are many hurdles to overcome in creating a successful business. According to Restaurant Startup and Growth Magazine, opening a new restaurant requires a lot of risk—it’s estimated that of the half million restaurants in the United States, around 10 to 15 percent are forced to close each year. Most of those failures are restaurants that have been open fewer than three years. Even with these daunting odds, though, Peter has a lot of faith; he believes that his family and his customers will be there to back him up every step of the way.
One such customer is Ulysses Thomas. A graduate student in the third year of his Masters Degree Program at Boston University, Ulysses has frequented the restaurant since he first came to Boston three years ago. Because his classes are directly across the street from the restaurant, he simply crosses the T-tracks during breaks to grab a bite to eat and hang out with Peter.
Interestingly enough, the pair’s friendship began with the specificity of Ulysses’ first order. While a chicken-salad salad is a memorable thing for anyone to request, Ulysses insists on getting it “his way.” This means that he wants it with no onions, extra tomatoes and romaine lettuce instead of regular lettuce. Because Peter is so adept at remembering orders, this specific food order stuck in his mind—every time Ulysses entered the shop from then on, Peter remembered him as the guy with the strangely specific order.
“Peter is the kinda guy you’re just drawn to. He’s easy going, the restaurant is laid-back, and it’s definitely a different atmosphere than my classes,” Ulysses says matter-of-factly. “Having BHOP around has been good for me…I’ve been able to just go and hang out with a friend in the middle of a hectic day.”
Peter has developed many meaningful friendships like this, which, in a business sense, has proven to keep sales at a consistent (or better) level. Word of mouth combined with the loyalty of certain customers ensure the shop’s success. Peter’s cheerful and entertaining attitude in addition to BHOP’s great menu make the restaurant a relaxed and enjoyable place for many people.
An article in the San Francisco Business Times inadvertently describes Peter’s importance to BHOP by focusing on a man expanding a restaurant franchise in California. Although the circumstances between Peter and managing director, Tim Stannard, are completely different, there is a sentiment Stannard addresses that rings true in Peter’s case. He emphasizes the importance of people employed in restaurants; they are the factor that determines its success. Without these people—the ones who show up for work day in and day out, constantly putting their best food forward—the restaurant is just four walls; it’s just a box.
Peter ensures that the atmosphere of his restaurant is more than just a bare room. He truly cares about his customers and wants to ensure a good experience every time they visit.
When asked why he decided continue cooking and working at BHOP he says simply in the manner of a shrug, “These people know me and I know them. The work here is hard, but the friendships—they make it worth it.”
By Morgan K. Moretz