Georgia Dariotis, who along with her husband brought the Old Spaghetti Factory to midtown nearly four decades ago, died Friday at her family home in Sacramento. She was 91.
Dariotis was the daughter of Greek immigrants and restaurateurs. Her brother, Guss Dussin, founded the Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant in Portland, Ore., in 1969. After working in the Portland restaurant for several years, Mrs. Dariotis got her brother’s permission to open the restaurant’s first franchise, in Sacramento. She and her husband, Michael Dariotis, established the Old Spaghetti Factory in 1978 in the former Western Pacific train depot at J and 19th streets.
“My mother was a working woman long before it was fashionable,” said daughter Rhea Brunner. “She was really a strong, important woman, who was often in the background.”
Dariotis was born April 19, 1924, the daughter of Chris and Anastasia Dussin, Greek immigrants who had gone into the restaurant business in Portland. She grew up in the family business, working the cash register at her father’s cafe.
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She attended Willamette University, majoring in nursing. After she married in September 1946, she and her husband became part owners of the original Old Spaghetti Factory.
It was Dariotis’ idea to open a franchise in Sacramento.
“She did not like the Portland rain,” said son Mike Dariotis. “She wanted to come to sunny California.”
The old train depot had been converted to a restaurant that had recently gone out of business, so the timing was right to put down roots in a historic location, he said.
Mike Dariotis recalled that his mother worked the front desk, greeting and seating guests for lunch.
“She always had a smile and a very warm greeting,” he said. “She wanted to make sure everyone got great service and hospitality.”
After lunch, she took on the bookkeeping tasks, heading into the office to count the money and pay the bills.
My mother was a working woman long before it was fashionable. She was really a strong, important woman, who was often in the background.
Georgia Dariotis’ daughter, Rhea Brunner
Mike Dariotis remembers his mother as a hard worker. When he was a child in Portland, he recalled, she split her days between the Old Spaghetti Factory and his grandfather’s restaurant, all while raising four children.
In addition to the Sacramento franchise, Dariotis, her husband and children expanded operations to include 13 Old Spaghetti Factory franchises in California and Arizona.
Although the restaurants specialize in Italian cuisine, Mike Dariotis said their trademark is the use of Greek Mizithra cheese.
George Dariotis, Georgia Dariotis’ eldest son, said that when he joined the business and was opening restaurants, “My mother was the rock. She kind of gave me the push I needed to make it happen.”
She always urged her children to believe in themselves and to be strong, he said.
Although Dariotis had health problems in her latter years, she always kept an eye on the business. If she stopped by the restaurant for a meal, she might come out of the restroom saying it needed cleaning, or note that there was no one at the front desk, recalled Mike Dariotis.
She was active in the Greek Orthodox Church as a member of the Daughters of Penelope and a group known in English as “Friends of the Poor.”
Dariotis was preceded in death by her husband and brother. She is survived by sons, George Dariotis and Michael Dariotis Jr., both of Sacramento, and Chris Dariotis of Carmichael; daughter, Rhea Brunner of Sacramento; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
A Trisagion service will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday and a funeral service for Dariotis will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, both at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 600 Alhambra Blvd., Sacramento. A meal of remembrance will be held in the church hall following burial at East Lawn Cemetery on Folsom Boulevard.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Georgia D. Dariotis Memorial Fund at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church.