“I did not want my name on the restaurant,” says Sofia Papastamelos of her namesake restaurant Sofia of Margate. “I had more mythical names in mind, but my brother wanted a nice female name. ‘I know what I want to name it,’ he said. Since then it (the name Sofia) has become so popular. So many little girls come in with the name. It’s come back.”
The brother who Papastamelos refers to is Dr. Athanasios Papastamelos, an infectious disease specialist at Shore Medical Center and Sofia Papastamelos’ twin, who discovered the space where Sofia Restaurant now lies.
The twins, along with older sister Angela Diamantis, and their parents came to the U.S. from Greece in 1967 and grew up in the restaurant business, working at their father’s diner.
Papastamelos desired his sisters to be closer to him, so when he saw the space in Margate in 2006, he enticed the women to open a place down the shore.
“I didn’t even know where Margate was,” Sofia Papastamelos admits. “But my brother wanted my sister and me to come look at it. He wanted us to move from the old location and move here. So we sold our old business 10 years ago.”
Sofia Papastamelos is “totally responsible for atmosphere” while sister Diamantis is responsible for the food and beverage aspects. Dr. Papastamelos is more of a silent partner.
The atmosphere Sofia Papastamelos created at her restaurant is one of the more spectacular ones you’ll find in the area — or perhaps anywhere else.
The first thing that catches your eye is the enormous “tree” that sits toward the end of the bar with lighted branches that reach upward to the ceiling painted with a mural of the sky, providing a very relaxed and outdoorsy feel.
Two fine dining rooms make up the interior of the first floor, including the atrium with four LED screens displaying a “fireplace” image that adds warmth to this classically designed space, along with a small outdoor courtyard for drinking or dining, too. The second level holds two other dining areas, one indoors used mostly for special events such as small weddings in the off season and dinner service in season, and another outdoor area complete with a full bar.
Ornate and intricate iron work weaves its way throughout the entire space, from the gate on the wine wall to the railing on the staircase to the magnificent chandeliers, all of which were designed by Sofia Papastamelos who had them made in Italy.
The aesthetics of the restaurant alone are worth the trip to Sofia — and a visit to the loo for women in particular is a must, with enormous fish faucets, decorative troughs and glamorous mirrors that make one never want to leave a ladies’ room.
But it’s the food that has folks returning again and again. The menu is brimming with Mediterranean specialties thanks to “all good flavors” that “enhance the main ingredient with lemon, herbs and olive oil and don’t overpower.”
“A lot of the recipes we grew up with — they come from our mother, grandmother, great-grandmothers,” Diamantis says. “And people come here to experience our different flavors.”
Sofia of Margate, 9314 Amherst Ave., Margate, SofiaOfMargate.com