When Pat Connors died earlier this year, he not only left behind a beloved popular restaurant but a legacy as well. He was a culinary force to be reckoned with, both here in Tucson and most anywhere he stepped foot in. Luckily it was in our midtown that Pat decided to own and operate the locally legendary eating institution, Pastiche, and for that we will always be forever grateful.
It was lung cancer that took him. After his passing, many wondered about the fate of Pastiche. It was up to his son, Cole, who just turned 20 and was busy with college, to see that his father's business and reputation would be carried on. That is quite a burden for a guy who can't even drink at the restaurant he was suddenly managing.
During the time of post mortal turmoil, a recently married couple were looking to buy a restaurant concept to call their own. When they turned down a deal for a busy spot on University Avenue, they saw the listing for Pastiche and had to investigate.
"The minute we walked in and looked around, we knew we had made the right choice."
Constantine "Costas" Georgacas moved to Chicago in 1974 from Greece with only $18 in his pocket and speaking no English. Working from the ground up in restaurants located around mainly Greek neighborhoods, by 1980 he had made enough capital and a name for himself to open his own place. It was a fast-paced, carry-out spot that was open 24 hours a day and was an enormous success. By the '90s, Costas expanded his restaurant empire by acquiring other lucrative endeavors and was pretty much set as far as Chicago standards were concerned.
It was the mid-2000's that brought sudden change. His wife was diagnosed with cancer and fought for many years. When she passed, Costas knew he had to move on and move out of Chicago.
"I wanted sun, I wanted the desert climate. In 2013, I moved here to Tucson."
Semi-retired when he relocated, Costas was beginning to get antsy because being a restauranteur is in his blood. It was around this time that Costas met his now wife, Judie, a successful real estate broker who, ironically enough, lost her husband to the same cancer that took Pat. The two had so much in common, not just from tragedy but for a love of all things Tucson and wanting to own a successful business together. Judie and Costas got married at an age when most people are well into their retirement. But quitters, these two are certainly not.
"We want to carry out the tradition that Pat has laid down," cites Judie. "We plan on keeping Pastiche as it is because if it isn't broke, why try to fix it?"
With help from Cole, as well as longtime chef Tim Moore who has been with Pastiche nearly from its inception starting out (much like Costas) from the very bottom and is now up for consideration in the next Iron Chef Tucson competition, the Georgacas' consider themselves keepers of the flame rather than new landlords with changes on their agenda.
"Although," beams Costas with a playful grin, "I would like to introduce a few Greek dishes on the menu. We are working on that and when the time is right it will be the only thing, really, that will be different here."
For those few that are unfamiliar with Pastiche, it is a tasteful and tasty spot along the bustling Campbell Avenue corridor between Grant and Fort Lowell roads. Pat Connors opened the doors of Pastiche in 1998 after spending some time working in various restaurants when he gave up the idea of pursuing a career in risk management. Luckily for us, his business sense leaned sturdier towards the food aspect and introduced Tucson to an epicurean take on modern fusion cuisine without the pretention. Through the years, the baked mac and cheese (with Parmesan, smoked Gouda and sharp Jack mixed with spinach and bacon) has become a well-known regular addiction. As is the gorgeous Heirloom Tomato Caprese Stack, a rainbow tower of bright colors and flavors, or the sumptuous Osso Bucco, tender slow-cooked veal where the bones literally remove themselves, all of which will remain intact and continue the beauty that Connors created.
The connection between Pat and Costas just doesn't stop at wanting to serve Tucson delicious food in an inviting arena; Pat was born in Chicago before moving to Arizona, around the same time that Costas was just getting started in the restaurant business in Chicago and would later move to Tucson to make sure that Connors' patrimony is carried out correctly. A mid-west coincidence that would wind up in the beautiful southwest one day.
"I sometimes cannot believe I am just getting started, again, and at this age," smiles Costas leaning on the newly refurbished bar. "But I love it. I love Tucson. And I love this restaurant. This is where I was meant to be. I know this!"