Helen Andronikidies and her sister Cece are the recognizable front-of-house team who run the Village Luncheonette. The restaurant at 88 Old Ridgefield Rd. has been open since, well, as far back as anyone can remember.
“Thirty years?” said one when asked how long the restaurant has been open. “No, 46, something like that!” replied the other. Their back and forth patter—Cece didn’t want to be in the story, while Helen urged her to speak up—shows a sisterly familiarity as well as an easygoing way about the details. They run the ship for their brother, who owns the restaurant. “It’s been in the family for a very long time.”
It’s been a fan favorite for years, and there are people who have been coming in since forever.
“We got the regulars, a lot of people who ate here when they were kids and grew up and they became parents and now they bring their kids to eat,” boasted Helen. “We got a lot of family Christmas cards from customers on the wall.” It’s certainly reflective of how people feel about Helen, Cece and the Luncheonette. In fact, the restaurant is a well-woven part of the fabric of town.
The restaurant is a regular meeting point for Wilton locals and even a place where non-residents come frequently. The parents of one Westport woman visit for lunch after their regular checkups at their doctor’s Wilton office. The Luncheonette is a place where Wilton organizations, groups and individuals are eager to get their flyers up on the bulletin board, knowing many people will see the ads there during their daily travels.
But together, Helen and Cece are one of the biggest elements of the appeal. They know people by name, they’re sweet with the kids like favorite aunts, and they make sure everyone is well fed.
Helen is one of those lucky souls who loves her job. “I like the people, I like the job, I like the overall attitude of the community here—people are beautiful here.”
She told of one group that sets up shop every morning in the back. “I’ve been working here 30 years. One table they been coming every morning. We call him ‘The Mayor.’ Also the ex-mayor, [Former First Selectman] Bob Russell comes here. The chief would come in every morning.”
The luncheonette has a large menu of just about anything you’d find in a diner, but of course the plate they’re most famous for is “THE Salad.”
“Oh yes, the Fresh Salad is very popular,” laughed Helen, when asked about the house specialty of well-chopped salad over a pita with vinaigrette, that most people order “with chicken and feta.”
“People come in and look around and see everyone eating the same thing. They think, ‘Oh, it must be good!’ So they order it too.” What’s the secret? “Oh I don’t know, I guess the combination of the fresh vegetables.”
Helen also cleared up something very important: the correct way to say ‘gyro.’ “People come in and ask, ‘Is it gee-roh? Is it jie-roh? Is it yee-roh?’ It’s yee-roh, because when it cooks, in Greece, or maybe Astoria, it’s a big piece of meat and it’s cooked standing up and around. It cooks, and it turns and they slice off the crispy cooked parts. Gyro means ‘go around.’”
Her Greek heritage helps her get the pronunciation just right; she moved to the U.S. in 1969.
Of course, although Helen and Cece see lots of faces every day as part of their jobs, they recognize everyone, but they can spot the new ones, as they’ve been witnesses to the many new families who’ve moved to town over the years. They’ve got a good method for figuring out how the housing market is doing. “We see lots of real estate people here. I see them a lot. When they’re bringing someone to buy, they bring them here.”
Seems everybody brings somebody there at one point or another. Lunch times are hopping, and it’s pretty much a guarantee you’ll bump into someone you know whatever time you stop in. You’ll always be welcomed in by the sisters.
“This is the place. We appreciate our customers—we love our customers. There are no big secrets other than that—I love my customers, that’s what makes it great to work here.”
Robert Olmedo is one such loyal customer. “I come here every day. They are like my family. I love this place because it’s a family place, it’s a clean place. Everything is fresh. I’ve tried elsewhere, they don’t friend you. The Luncheonette is not inexpensive, it’s not cheap. But I love it here because you see families here, you see kids here. It’s family.”