When Yanni Coutsougeras was only eight years old, he had already developed a love and passion for cooking that would eventually become a career for him.
Growing up, Coutsougeras was constantly surrounded by the restaurant life, as his parents have owned restaurants for much of his life.
Today, Coutsougeras and his parents co-own OPA Grill, a Mediteranian-American restaurant in Marshalltown.
Having grown up between Greece and the United States, Coutsougeras developed a unique taste that is exhibited in his cooking. The OPA menu features many traditional Greek flavors, such as the gyro and pastitsio, a Greek lasagna, but it also includes more classic American dishes, like hamburgers and chicken wings.
Some of the most popular dishes at OPA are the pasta dishes, and not without reason. Coutsougeras’ favorite food to make is pasta, as it can be adapted into so many unique plates. All of the pasta at OPA is made fresh every morning and cooked to order, a source of Pride for Coutsougeras.
“I think that when you can do something fresh for the customer, I think it’s better than buying that pre-frozen substance, so to speak,” he said.
Using his fresh homemade pasta, Coutsougeras enjoys creating new and unexpected dishes for his customers to enjoy.
“Cooking to me is like an artform,” he said. “You know how painters paint and they create something from just, you know, on a blank canvas. That’s kind of what cooking is for me.”
One of Coutsougeras’ unique dishes offered at OPA is the chorizo and shrimp pasta special, an idea suggested by his wife, Jessica Coutsougeras.
The life of a restaurant owner includes many long days and late nights prepping for opening and cleaning after closing, but Coutsougeras wouldn’t trade his life regardless.
“It doesn’t bother me working long hours. Being able to create something for people to eat is what I like to do, it’s satisfying to me.”
One look into the kitchen of OPA, and you can see Coutsougeras’ love for cooking as well as his family. Hanging in the kitchen are two clips, reminding him why he loves what he does: one a collection of photos of his daughters to bring him comfort during long, busy nights, and the other a portion of a receipt left by a customer saying “Best gyro I’ve ever had by far.”