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Hidden Cincinnati: Sebastian's, tiny and mighty since 1976, serves Greek eats and nostalgia

WCPO sebastian's restaurant.jpeg
Posted at 5:00 AM, Jun 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-10 19:18:20-04

GREEN TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Not every hidden gem in Greater Cincinnati is historic. Some are just delicious.

Sebastian’s, a Greek restaurant on the corner of Sidney Road and Glenway Avenue in Covedale, is tiny and mighty.

So is its owner, 78-year-old Greek immigrant Alex Vassilou. He’s been making the same dishes and serving many of the same people for 46 years, and he still works six days a week.

Part of it, he said, is about perfectionism — there are sacred tasks inside Sebastian’s, like slicing meat for sandwiches, that no one else can do the way he does.

The other part is restlessness.

“I can’t stay still,” he said. “I got to do something.”

Vassilou attributes his success to strong basics: “The sandwich is good. I’m nice to the people. Nothing changes.”

And Brigette Agarwal, one of only three employees in the little restaurant, thinks he’s right. The magic that longtime customers feel comes from good food, friendly service and reliability.

“You could have walked in here 46 years ago, and this would be the same,” she said. “The food is good, and it’s still good. Sometimes people like to feel nostalgia, to feel something they used to feel, and I think you come in here and you can feel that way.”

Longtime customers Pat and Alex Campbell can vouch for that. They’ve been eating at Sebastian’s since 1979, when the restaurant was new and Vassilou considered himself the first person to bring the gyro sandwich from Chicago to Cincinnati. He knows their order as soon as he sees them.

And they like that not everyone knows about their spot, which is still cash-only, closed on Sundays and dedicated to its small menu of fries, baklava, spanikopita, salad and gyro sandwiches.

“People should try the hideaways, you know,” Pat said. “We have lots of hideaways in Cincinnati.”

One more fun fact: The name of the restaurant comes from the middle name of someone you definitely know. Donald Sebastiano LaRosa — better known as "Buddy" — was one of Vassilou’s earliest allies in the local restaurant business when he opened in 1976.