It's a rich history that goes back to the 1950s when Gus Iatridis, his brother George along with brothers-in-law Nick Hasapis and Jim Kourles would arrive in Canada from Greece. These young and ambitious men would take some time to work and make some money, learn to speak English and then, in 1963, put it all together to open up their first restaurant. Their legacy lives on today in Moose Jaw where their families still own and operate Rodos Pizza and The Mad Greek.
Peter Iatridis and his mother Freda run the operation at Rodos while Peter's brother, John, is the owner/operator at The Mad Greek.
The Iatridis family is very proud to carry on the family tradition in the city they call home. John told us about some of the family history in the local restaurant industry which started in 1963 with the Ambassador Cafe on Main Street.
"Yes, that was a little bit before my time but that was the one they all got together for, and they basically said they were going to put everything they had into it. My uncle George was a hairdresser, and my dad was cooking out in BC. My uncle Jim was the one who put it all together and my uncle Nick was a painter and they just all got together and put everything they had into that first restaurant. They were sleeping in the basement for the first little while until they could get a place together... They put in a lot of hard work," John said.
John said it was the promise of a better life that brought them all to Canada.
"You know, it was post World War II and things were tough in Greece and this was the land of opportunity. So, they had a big family, and you know, slowly, two sisters would come over and then my dad came over with his one sister and they all came over one by one and two by two," John explained.
Many locals still talk about the Ambassador Cafe which featured jukeboxes in every booth.
"The Ambassador had them, both Rodos downtown and Rodos South Hill had them too...I remember flipping through the dials on the side and turning it and going through it, for sure," John said with a laugh.
So, after operating The Ambassador for a number of years, expansion would follow in the early 1970s when the Iatridis brothers along with Hasapis and Kourles bought an existing pizza restaurant and gave it their own brand - Rodos Pizza. The expansion didn't end there with another Rodos opening up on South Hill around 1976 and a 3rd outlet on the #1 Highway in 1984. The original Rodos Pizza was located in the old Johnstone Block (which has since been torn down) on the corner of Main and Hochelaga.
"If I remember right, they were open 'til either 2 or 3 AM on weekdays and 4 AM on weekends. It was great. You'd walk in there and it was full... After what was called 'bar rush' back then, the place would fill up at 2 and 3 o'clock in the morning. Those were different times," John reminisced.
These days, Rodos Pizza operates in one, busy location and that's the one on 9th Avenue South West.
"I believe it was an ice cream shop and they turned it into Rodos, and I think they've added on three or four times. It wasn't very big when they first bought it and now, they've done a complete overhaul in there and it looks really good inside," John said.
Having grown up in the family restaurants, John made the decision to give his own restaurant a try. It's a decision he's pleased to have made as The Mad Greek on Main Street in downtown Moose Jaw has become a local favourite for many.
"It's all I've ever wanted to do. So, just about 19 years ago now I decided to take a leap with my cousin. We had this building here, my family did, and it was just sitting here empty, so we thought we'd try something different and mix in a little more Greek than we were doing at the time. It was a dream of mine and so far, it's worked out," John smiled.
John admits, he still orders in from Rodos when he's at home.
"Absolutely! It's the best pizza you'll ever eat," John said with a laugh.
And, while Rodos still has a very loyal, local customer base, John has stories about former Moose Javians who still get a hankering for a Rodos pizza even years after moving away.
"We've seen it the most at Christmas time. We've sent pizzas to Toronto, Las Vegas, we send them out west all the time. When we owned the highway location, we had truckers who would ask us to make pizza and freeze it so they could take it for the drive home. So, we'd tell them what temperature to cook it at to heat it up when they got home, and we still do a lot of that. We see it on social media now, you know, guys from Vancouver saying, 'Oh, what I'd do to have a Rodos pie'."
John also has fond memories of hosting Chris Chelios when he was back in Moose Jaw in 2013. Chelios, who played junior hockey for the Moose Jaw Canucks in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League from 1979 through 1981, was a guest of the Moose Jaw Warriors for 'Moose Jaw Canucks Night'.
The local Greek community embraced the young Chelios when he played here, and he never forgot that.
"He sat down in front of me, and he ordered 10 pizzas for his family and friends from Rodos. He grabbed one for himself and he took it into a corner. I went over and said, 'How is it?' and he looked at me, nodded, closed his eyes, and he said, 'I've been waiting 35 years to have one of these!", John said with a laugh.
So, what is it? What's the secret to making what many call the best pizza they've ever eaten?
"I think, honestly, Rodos isn't cheap with their product, and neither are we at The Mad Greek. It's a thicker-style pizza made with quality ingredients. We don't cut corners at all. I remember watching dad in the kitchen and if someone made a thin pizza, it was almost offensive to him. He'd say, you know, 'That person's paying $20.00 for that pizza and you're not going to give him a $10.00 pizza.' So, it's the quality and, you know, it's not often that you'll see somebody eat one of those and say they're still hungry, that's for sure," John said.
Long-time, loyal Rodos customers still order their pizzas 'old style' and that's the way John serves up all his pizzas at The Mad Greek. They're cooked with the meat on top of the cheese.
"That's the one thing I did. I always liked it because the meats would crisp. It's not for everybody. Some people think of that as burned if they see the meat is dark but for me, the meat gets crisp as opposed to when you put the cheese over top it's like a blanket on the meat... Old style is what I prefer," John said.
And, while Rodos and The Mad Greek are unique, it's still all in the family for John.
"We do things together like advertising and stuff... It's not the same but it's definitely not competitive. You know, one time I had a customer who was upset and he said he wasn't going to order from us anymore and he was going to order from Rodos, and I said well, OK, you do that... I wasn't too upset about that," John laughed.
John is proud of Rodos, he's proud of the Mad Greek and he beams with pride when he talks about his dad and his uncles and their legacy.
"We lost dad in 2012. He was only 72 years old... And then a few years after, we lost our uncle Nick and my uncle George and uncle Jim followed all within a span of a year or two. But, you know, they live on in everything we do. The food itself, we don't take credit for that. It was them who did all that," John said.
"My dad was really proud of being from Moose Jaw. You know, we'd be on a family vacation in Greece and people would ask where we were from and dad would say 'Moose Jaw' and I remember thinking dad, no one is going to know where that is, but he didn't care. He was proud of Moose Jaw and so am I. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else - unless it's 40 below then I want to be in Greece," John laughed.
John and his family and their staff are all looking forward to serving their customers post-pandemic. Provincial restrictions will be lifted on July 11th.
"We've done OK because we've always had a decent take-out business, but I'll tell you, Moose Jaw really, really supported us. Like, the second everything went to take out, we were all terrified, not just about making money but we've got people who rely on their jobs, and you want to make sure they're OK. I remember thinking, you know, if we can pay our bills and keep our staff, we'd be happy with that. Well, we did that and more. The support from the community has been great," John said.
"I think everybody has learned a lot from this pandemic, whether it's restaurants or, you know, I think about going to hockey games and seeing the arena half-empty, and I have a feeling we'll see it more full once things open up again. I think people will appreciate being able to go out and do those things," John said.
The support from the community for Rodos Pizza and The Mad Greek during the pandemic is something John says he and his family will never forget and they plan on continuing their efforts in supporting everything they can.
Rodos and The Mad Greek have always been big supporters of junior hockey in our city, but they do so much more than that.
"I think it's important. One of my friends once told me that owning a business and being successful, one of the best things about that is knowing that you can help people. You know, you go to bed at night, and you feel good about yourself... And not just the Warriors but everything right down to peewee hockey or whatever it might be... It's a good thing."
"I can't wait to see things open up. You know, I tell people all the time I really think that we're in the best city in the province. I love this city, I love our downtown, I love everything about it. So, we're really proud to be here and hopefully, we'll be here for a long time," John added.