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Interview—Leo from Jim’s Greek Tavern
Written by Penny Modra — 15th March 2017
Leo!

Leo!

The most popular article on our website is still Max’s story about our staff dinner at Jim’s Greek Tavern—a fine establishment and a reassuring fixture in the lives of all Johnston Street passersby. As Max said, ‘It’s been sitting there the whole time we’ve had our shop, wafting its sweet char-grilled aroma our way, an aroma refreshingly free of the hoity-toity airs of all the jazzed-up foodie joints around the area.’ We’ve got a photo of Jim’s on the cover of the new Good Copy Gazette (issue 4 out this week!) so Dan and I went over the road to interview Jim himself, whose name is actually Leo.

Penny: Leo how do I spell your name?
Leo: L-e-o

Penny: And what’s your role here at Jim’s?
Leo: I’m the owner.

Penny: How long have you owned it?
Leo: Since 1982.

Penny: Since 1982? That was, um …
Leo: It’s been 34 years.

Penny: 1982. Um. So you’ve been here 34 years. Do you work in the restaurant or are you just the owner?
Leo: No, I work.

Penny: How often do you work?
Leo: Just about every day.

Penny: Every day?

[The restaurant gets a phone call. Leo ducks to his mini-office near the front of Jim’s.]

Waiter: Did you enjoy your meal last time, was it good?

Penny: Soooo good. We are gonna come back soon! It’s a bit filling.
Waiter: Sorry?

Penny: It’s filling.
Waiter: Yes, the dips and the breads especially.

Penny: I know, and you tried to tell us. You said, ‘Don’t have too many dips,’ but I didn’t listen …

[Leo returns]

Penny: So, Leo, what’s the busiest time of day here?
Leo: We are only open for dinner from six to midnight.

Penny: When do most people come in for dinner? Rush hour?
Leo: Yeah. Seven o’clock.

Penny: The classic dinner time?
Leo: Yes.

Penny: Have you ever got your car towed from out the front?
Leo: No, but I’ve got booked a couple of times. [chuckles]

Penny: That’s a killer.
Leo: I parked in the ‘no standing’ zone and they booked me.

Penny: Did you write a letter?
Leo: No.

Penny: You paid it? I got booked a few times here as well. Do you have any tips for people when they order off the menu at Jim’s? Like your favourite dish?
Leo: Well we specialise in seafood and lamb dishes. It’s not a huge variety of menu. Like if you want to have pasta or anything like this we don’t accommodate for those people. I accommodate for seafood and lamb eaters.

Penny: That’s a good tip. Who is the most famous person you’ve ever met at the restaurant as a customer?
Leo: A lot of people. I can’t think off the top of my head.

Penny: We saw the other day that Lleyton Hewitt came for dinner.
Leo: Yeah, he was here
Waiter: [shouts from kitchen] Julia’s been here

Daniel: Julia Gillard?
Waiter: Yes! And the guy who played, the guy from The Matrix—Agent Smith!

Penny: Hugo Weaving!
Waiter: Yes. What a nice guy he was.
Leo: And Tony Roach the tennis coach, who used to train Lleyton Hewitt. They are all my customers.

Penny: Are you a tennis fan?
Leo: Yeah.

Penny: Is that why they come here?
Leo: Naa-uuh I dunno! I dunno! Maybe because we treat them right. I had Marat Safin. Yeah I have lots of tennis players. Back in the ’80s I used to get, Martina … whatever her name is.

Penny: Martina Navratilova!

Daniel: What’s that guy’s name? [points to framed picture of a dude who looks like a tennis player]
Leo: Baghdatis. Marcos Baghdatis.

Daniel: He won the Australian Open?
Leo: Naaah, he went to the final but he didn’t win it. Federer did.

Penny: Federer has been going forever.
Leo: A few years back I knocked back Ben Jovi.

Penny: Bon Jovi? You told him ‘No, you can’t come in‘?
Leo: Yeeaah, well I can’t remember. I think it was Friday or Saturday. They arrived in Melbourne, I can’t remember what time but they rang about eight o’clock to accommodate ten or twelve people. I couldn’t do it so I had to knock them back.

Penny: Oh no! What did they say?
Leo: Well, I don’t know if they liked it or not but a lot of customers, when they found out I knocked them back, got upset.

Penny: This place has got high standards.
Leo: And I have Chris de Burgh. He sang here. We had guitars hanging in here. They got stolen. But when he was here we had the guitars, we were going up and trying to play the guitars. He goes, ‘Give me that,’ and played ‘Lady in Red’.

Penny: Oh my god!
Leo: I had Demis Roussos back in the ’70s, late ’70s.

Penny: Who?

Daniel: He’s huge. My mum’s got a lot of his records. He was a huge pop star.

Penny: I’m the one who doesn’t know anything.
Leo: Yeah, we had a lot famous people over the years because this place has been going for forty-three, forty-four years. Yeah.

Penny: What’s the story, Leo: I see there is an auction coming up again?
Leo: Not the business. The building.

Penny: Uh, that’s a relief. Okay, so you’ll still be here. That’s really good. We’ve already got too much for the interview so we’ll have to make it four pages.