By Karen Andrew
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Lazaros "Pops" Nourtsis - who in 1961 co-founded Price Hill Chili, now a Cincinnati landmark - died Wednesday at Mercy Franciscan Hospital.
The Price Hill resident, himself a West Side icon, was 95.
Mr. Nourtsis was active in the restaurant until two weeks ago, when he fell ill.
"He was very sharp to the last moment," said Sam Beltsos of Green Township, his son-in-law and co-founder. "Every morning, he would come in at 9. He was very proud to see the success."
Born in 1908 in Kastoria, Greece, Mr. Nourtsis immigrated to the United States with his wife, Thelma, in 1956. They lived with an uncle in Latonia, Ky., who owned a restaurant, where Mr. Nourtsis learned the business.
"That was always my dream" - to own a restaurant, Mr. Beltsos said. "One time I just took a drive on Glenway (Avenue). There was this empty store, and I thought, this would be a nice place to open a store."
He told his father-in-law of the idea.
"My dad died when I was 11, and Pops was the only dad I ever knew. I told him, 'You know, I'm going to open up a restaurant and see what happens.' He came to help me."
They began with 12 stools and four tables near the intersection of Glenway and Cleves-Warsaw Pike. The chili parlor has since expanded to 300 seats.
Price Hill Chili is known for good food at fair prices, as well as its family atmosphere. Favorite dishes include eggs with homemade goetta, cheese coneys, double-deckers and Greek fries.
The restaurant has become a bastion of West Side politicians as well as Elder High School sports fans.
"We're known as Elder Corner," Mr. Beltsos said. "We have five generations coming into the place now. We are the family restaurant on the Hill. Everyone knows they're going to find a friend here."
Many people have fond memories of the restaurant and the family.
"What (Mr. Nourtsis) created was a public meeting space, a place for people to come together on the West Side," said Cincinnati Councilman John Cranley. "It's a place you go to celebrate your victories, commiserate your defeats and reunite your family."
JoAnne Grote, co-owner of nearby Grote Barber and Styling, recalled how Mr. Nourtsis would come to work and sit on his stool at the back cash register.
"He'd always have a hug and a smile - a big kiss. He always teased the young ones who worked there," she said.
Survivors include: his wife of 70 years, Thelma; a brother, Pete of Chicago; a daughter, Ezmine Beltsos of Green Township; two sons, Sam and Steve, both of Green Township; nine grandchildren; and 18 great-grandchildren.
Visitation: 5-8 p.m. today at Dalbert, Woodruff and Isenogle Funeral Home, 2880 Boudinot Ave., Westwood. The funeral Mass will take place at 10 a.m. Monday at Holy Trinity-St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 7000 Winton Road, Finneytown.
Memorials: Holy Trinity-St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 7000 Winton Road, Cincinnati, OH 45224.
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