It didn't matter who you were to Pete Kontinakis. Once you walked into Farmington Steakhouse, you were his buddy.
Though the signs around the Farmington Steakhouse still bear his smiling face, visitors to the steakhouse will never hear his friendly "Hey, buddy" greeting again, as Pete (Panayoitis) Kontinakis passed away Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012.
Kontinakis and his steakhouse have been a fixture to downtown Farmington since the business opened during the summer of 1984. He ran the business with his wife, Aristea. The couple also had a steakhouse in Eagan, family friend Mike Bischel said, but lost that business to fire a number of years ago.
Bischel and Kontinakis formed a fast friendship years ago, Bischel said. Kontinakis had several rental properties, and turned to Bischel for repairs and remodels. When the Farmington Steakhouse needed a facelift out front, Kontinakis called on Bischel.
Kontinakis was a trusting man who never wanted to fuss with contracts. Instead, Bischel recalls, Pete liked to work out handshake deals and return favors when possible. A lot of times, that meant he would invite vendors to sit down and have something to eat, or offer a cup of coffee.
Really, Bischel said, Kontinakis just liked to be around other people.
"One of the things he liked to do was give people a hard time when they came in," Bischel said. "If they ordered a steak, he'd say, 'Oh, your chicken is on the way,' and he'd play it up until you got to the end of the line, and he had your steak ready for you. He did jokes like that all the time."
Pete also raised sheep at a farm in Austin, Bischel said. Kontinakis enjoyed taking the time to do the chores, and those chores apparently gave him a tremendous grip.
"The guy was as strong as an ox," Bischel said. "He could give you a handshake and drop you to your knees. He was really a strong guy."
The Farmington Steakhouse has been open since Pete's death, though a sign hung in the window this week, notifying customers it would be closed for a couple of days due to his funeral.
Pete Kontinakis is survived by his wife, Aristea; daughters Angie (Adam) McMahon, Maria, Niki (Brian) Youso, and Dina (Eric) Negron; grandchildren Panayoitis, Alexis, KyriaKi, Aristea and Alexander; brother Chris Kontenakos, and many cousins, nieces and nephews in the US, Greece, Canada, and Australia.
A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday Oct. 18 at St. George Greek Orthodox Church, 1111 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105. Memorials preferred to St. George Greek Orthodox Church.
Interment at Roselawn Cemetery.