Like Alexander, our own Gus Katsafaros seems always on the hunt for new worlds to conquer
By Patrick Butler
How did being a South Side real estate developer, owning a mortgage company, running a wholesale bakery that made all the bagels for Trader Joe’s and being a Coyne-trained electrician qualify Gus Katsafaros (“That’s an Irish name,” he quipped) to run Marmalade Restaurant at 1969 W. Montrose Ave.
“I can manage people and I have good business skills, so no matter what the business is, I can learn the in’s and out’s,” Katsafaros explained.
Unlike a lot of his fellow Greeks, Gus never planned on going into the restaurant business. “It was purely by accident. I somehow got caught up in the sale of LeSabre. It seemed like a good idea. It took off. We hit the ground running that first day,” he said.
So why is Marmalade different from any of the dozens of restaurants within earshot?
“Our food. We put a modern twist on the old classics. And my chef is constantly creating new dishes. We don’t have a set menu. It’s constantly evolving,” Gus said.
“Four of the items on the chalk board weren’t here yesterday. And they probably won’t be here next month. We give people something to look forward to.”
A lot of the items are suggested by the patrons, Gus noted. “Some asked for hash and eggs. We now sell them like hotcakes. We add something to the hash and slow cook it for 17-18 hours at a low temperature. We created this menu item from scratch. Now people (other restaurateurs) come here to get ideas,” Gus said.
Some fans have even urged Gus to start a chain of Marmalades – something he says will never happen. “If I opened another Marmalades they’d turn into glorified Denny’s. You can’t teach someone talent.”
So what’s his next great challenge?
“Probably politics,” said Gus, who admits he might like to be the next 47th Ward alderman.
It’s not that he has anything against incumbent Ameya Pawar. “But he’s already said he’s only doing two terms and I’d like to carry on what he started.’
He’s afraid that if he doesn’t enter the race, “there will be a vacuum that could be filled by the wrong person,” said Gus, who apparently has no shortage of ambition.
“I’d like to straighten out the schools and promote a lot more business here,” said Gus, who’d like to fill the remaining empty storefronts.
At the very least, he wants to “take a more grassroots approach. Give people even more direct contact with their ward boss. Just like Gene (Schulter) did (when he was alderman and Democratic committeeman).”
But despite whatever challenges remain, Gus says the 47th is already the best ward in the city to live and work in.
“Forget up and coming. We’ve already arrived!” he said.