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Memory Lane: Savour memories of favourite restaurants past and present

Food, family and memories go together

As soon as pandemic restrictions are lifted, we're going to be party like it's 1999.

It could be a repeat of the Roaring 1920s. Historians have suggested England's pub culture was born in the 14th century by Black Death survivors looking for a good time.

People tell me what they have missed most during the COVID-19 pandemic, after visits with family and friends, is having a delicious meal in a restaurant. Takeout and delivery are not the same.

While we wait for restaurants to open their doors to diners, Sudbury.com invites readers to savour memories and tell us about delicious and memorable experiences they've had at Sudbury restaurants, past and present.

Everyone has their favourites. Despite the selection available, most of us frequent the same places again and again because we enjoy the familiar and do not like surprises when we are hungry. More often than not, we order the same thing.

My go-to restaurant is Gus's on Elm Street, which is close to where I live. I usually order spanakopita. Greek spinach pie is easier for me to say.

For many years, dinner there on Friday nights was the beginning of my weekend. I would always run into someone I knew. I took many out-of-town guests there and they always enjoyed an authentic Sudbury experience. 

Gus's is owned by Spyros and Fania Koutroumanos. The original owner was Kostantinos (Gus) Lagges, a Greek immigrant, who opened the restaurant in 1952 with his nephews George and Peter Moutsatos and Nick Lagges.

Peter and his wife, Shirley, were welcoming hosts at Gus's for many years. Nick later opened Nick's Pier in New Sudbury. Peter's cousin, Junior, worked for him before opening his own place.  Junior and his wife Leslie, owned Pat & Mario's on Lasalle Boulevard for many years before converting the restaurant to P&M's Kouzzina. Peter's sister-in-law, Toula Sakellaris, owns The Apollo on The Kingsway.

When I was writing for Sudbury Weddings magazine, a new bride told me that after the ceremony the wedding party craved Deluxe fries. Their limousine drove up to the drive-thru window.

Deluxe Drive-in is another authentic Sudbury restaurant. Did you know the first McDonald's in Sudbury was not the runaway success as it had been in every other community? 

In part, the reason was loyalty to Deluxe's single arch. The other reason was in the early 1970s Sudbury was not yet bombarded with American TV signals and advertising for Big Macs and Quarter Pounders. (The city did not get cable TV until 1976.) 

Perhaps your family celebrated special occasions at Cassio's on Lorne Street? At one time, it was one of the finest restaurants in town. 

Romano Antoine Cassio opened the restaurant in 1947. He originally had a hot dog stand on what was then Copper Cliff Road called The Milk Bar. He also had a gas station and grocery store, which were popular stops for men on their way to and from the mines. 

Cassio purchased property down the road from the Holditch family and built a restaurant and later a motel. Cassio and his wife lived in an apartment above the restaurant for more than 50 years. The Cassio property is now a Knights Inn Hotel.

In the early days, Cassio's menu featured a plate of spaghetti for 85 cents and a chicken dinner cost $1.25.

Today, members of the Cassio family, Anna and Michael Cassio, operate Cassio’s Italian Restaurant in Jasper, Alta. Their website proudly claims they offer, "the same recipes and work ethic that were created by the original Cassio family restaurant dating back to 1947 in Sudbury, using fresh local ingredients where possible in all of our dishes, we strive to continue the legacy of Romano and Mary Cassio."

For many years, The Cedar Hut on Barrydowne Road was very popular because it had a large menu with something for all tastes and a pleasant ambiance.

The Cedar Hut is gone but Mr. Prime Rib, another uniquely Sudbury experience, has survived in a competitive market since 1967.  Owned by the Roumanes family, patriarch George worked at Gus's when he first arrived in Canada from Greece. The Roumanes opened U & I Restaurant at 777 Barry Downe Rd. It was renamed Mr. Prime Rib in the 1980s.

Do you have memories of an after-hours snack when Gloria's Restaurant was the only place in the entire region open late? Is it true Billy Idol ate there after his concert at Sudbury Arena in the late 1980s?

The Michel family opened Gloria's in the 1950s and it remained in the family. If you look at early photos, you’ll notice there is nothing else in the area around Bouchard and Regent. In October 2017, Bruno Michel sold Gloria’s to Peggy Sgouros and her family.

Casey's Roadhouse opened on The Kingsway in 1980 and became the birthplace of the Casey's Bar and Grill brand, as well as its parent company, Prime Restaurants. The original four owners began to sell franchises in 1982. 

There was a bright red caboose parked outside the original restaurant, which is now the site of the KIA dealership. 

Casey's eventually moved next door to  1070 The Kingsway. That restaurant closed in 2015 and rebranded as Fionn MacCool's. The building is now the home of Lot 88 Steakhouse, another brand that started in Sudbury by restaurateur John Law, who owns numerous other restaurants in the city.

Topper's Pizza is another Sudbury success story. Tired of bad pizza and in the need of a job, Ron Toppazzini used his family's crust and sauce recipes and opened the first "Mr. Topper's Pizza" on Notre Dame Avenue in 1982. 

Along the way, "Mr." was dropped from the name. There are more than 35 Topper's locations in Ontario. Like many locally owned restaurants, Topper's has helped many charities and fundraising events over the years.

Food, family and memories go together. We forward to sharing your stories in the Memory Lane article for June 15. Send your stories to mgentili@sudbury.com or vgilhula@gmail.com.

Vicki Gilhula is a freelance writer. She is a former editor of Northern Life and Sudbury Living magazine, and has a special interest in local history. Memory Lane is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.