, Newburyport, MA

July 9, 2013

At Newburyport diner, it's all about family fare


---- — NEWBURYPORT -- Angie’s Food on Pleasant Street is known as a “family restaurant,” and there’s more than one reason for that.

Owner Stephen Luz has his wife, Kimberly, working as bookkeeper and tax manager, and his three children (Nicole, 21, Sarah, 19, and Jake, 14) waiting tables and busing trays when they are around. Call it family fare.

“My wife takes care of the books and she is very good at what she does,” said Luz, 48, who himself cooks, cleans, cashes out customers and keeps traffic moving in the 76-seat venue.

“I’ve enjoyed having my children here, and they can make money while home from school. This has worked out very well for the family.”

Luz recently completed his first decade of ownership of Angie’s, a “breakfast all day” restaurant that has catered to locals for years. It employs a half-dozen on a full-time basis and perhaps two-dozen when summer comes along.

In an era in which Newburyport is adding chic restaurants and considering more venues on the waterfront, Angie’s actually makes an effort to retain its traditional identity.

“We try to improve our product without changing it,” said Luz. “Some customers have been coming here for years, for generations, and we want them to be comfortable with what they know.”

Luz, a native of Melrose, got into the business after a roommate at Westfield State College opened some restaurants and asked him to join.

One of the eateries was Angie’s, named after Angelo Sotiropoulos, who with his wife, Mary, ran the restaurant from the late ‘70s to about 1994.

Angelo died in 1995, and Mary passed away in 2009. Luz worked at the venue before buying it.

“Steve has done a great job with the business,” said John Magro, who owns Richdale’s next door. “We talk often about business matters, and he’s been very successful in keeping customers happy.”

Sunday is the biggest day of the week, and there are often lines out the door for a morning meal.

Though a half-dozen restaurants have opened nearby in the past few years, here is one businessman who doesn’t obsess about the competition.

“We have loyal customers who keep coming back,” he said. “And we’ve got a great staff, many of whom have been here for years. I don’t worry about things I can’t change.

“My focus is within these four walls, and I try to just think about what we do here.”

Its the rare small-business owner who tries to double as an economist but those who run local restaurants are known to venture an opinion.

“It looks like the economy is getting a little better,” said Luz. “We’re seeing more real-estate people, contractors, builders, and they seem more comfortable about going out for a meal.

“We’re a local place, where a worker might be sitting next to a millionaire. That’s Newburyport. The (business) climate seems to be improving.”

Brian Hotchkiss, a Newburyport resident who often dines at Angie’s, said, “I like the restaurant because the food is made there, and tastes like it’s made there - not frozen.”

Hotchkiss, an editor and book-packager at nearby Vern Associates, Inc., added, “The staff there is friendly, and I feel at home. It’s relaxing, and you get a good meal. It’s one of the things I really like about downtown Newburyport.”