Words and photos from Dikeos Foudeas
My parents own Milano’s, a pizzeria on 36th Avenue, near Spenard Road. My family opened the restaurant in the summer of 2001. They wanted a place where they could work and spend time with their kids.
I was six years old at the time. I remember waking up in the morning to watch the Greek soccer league with my dad before we would head off to the restaurant. My dad was born in Exo Hori, Greece, an hour south of Kalamata. Soccer played a big role in my adolescence. I only played soccer at first because my parents made me, but my passion didn’t spark until Greece shocked Europe and went from 300-1 underdogs to the European champions. From that point on, my game improved and my interest in Greek culture grew.
I began studying the language and watching soccer games with the intent of realizing my new found dream of becoming a professional soccer player in Greece. Eventually, I grew up and my dream faded away, as well as my interest and the pride I had with my culture. Still, my fondest memories of being at the restaurant was watching every major soccer tournament from the World Cup to the Champions League and listening to all my dad’s Greek friends go wild for their teams.
On days that I didn’t go to the restaurant, I would be at my grandmother’s apartment in Spenard, on W. 29th and Arctic Blvd. I am half Filipino and half Greek. Growing up, there was always a get together on the weekends with the Filipino side of my family. There would be so much food that we usually ended up inviting our neighbors to come chat, eat and play.
The neighborhood kids were always welcoming. We would play basketball and touch football on the street. Some days, we would have backyard boxing and wrestling matches behind the apartment complex, or lightsaber fights in the parking lot.
On days my grandma didn’t make any of her bomb Filipino foods like chicken adobo or dinuguan, my cousins and I would walk down the street and get cheeseburgers from Tommy’s Burger Stop. We would stumble back into the apartment and knock-out from all the food we ate. Everything looks the same from when I used to hang out there. The lone white door on the second floor of the apartment complex to the rusty basketball hoop next to the dumpster.
I felt more a part of that neighborhood than my own.
Somedays I find myself driving past those apartments after an outing to Tommy’s Burger Stop.
Being around many different people in open and closed situations sparked a newfound interest in people and storytelling. I learned to be comfortable in so many different settings, which led me to pursue a degree in journalism and digital media.