Zorba Restaurant, known for its Greek and international cuisine, has closed with the retirement of owner Adel Eltawansy, better known as “the king.”
Eltawansy, who is originally from Egypt, launched Zorba in the Roanoke City Market Building in 1985. He moved the business to Salem in 2010 when the historic downtown structure closed for renovations. Zorba continued to operate there until Aug. 31, its last day in business.
“Everything has an end,” Eltawansy said. “I am proud of myself, for working hard all these years.”
The early days of Zorba were difficult ones, Eltawansy said, especially as people were unfamiliar with several items on his menu, such as gyro, falafel and hummus. But eventually people gave the restaurant a chance, he said, and Zorba developed a base of loyal customers.
“Some people used to come to me every single day to eat with me,” Eltawansy said.
A restaurant can be busy and its owners might still be broke, Eltawansy said. He credited his success with Zorba to good management and the relationships he built with diners. Eltawansy said he worked just as hard on his last day in business as he did on his first.
“Always satisfy the customer,” he said. “That is the key of the business. Customers come first.”
Eltawansy said he would have liked to see Zorba continue. He envisioned selling the business to someone, since his children were not interested in taking over, perhaps staying on for a few months in a part-time capacity to show the new owner the ropes. But no such buyer emerged.
The Lynchburg Turnpike building that was home to Zorba for many years will now house a different restaurant, Eltawansy said, called Tivoli Pizza.
Eltawansy expressed gratitude for the support of his customers and said he had a simple message for them: “I say to every customer, don’t be sad.”
“I appreciate you guys,” he said. “I appreciate everybody that gives me a dollar in the business.”
Eltawansy said he’d miss the action and excitement that comes with a busy day at the restaurant, and of course laughing and joking with its patrons.
In his retirement, Eltawansy looks forward to spending more time with his children and traveling.