Taking Pete to the Pool: A Salute to a Bronx Diner Owner and his Famous Mustache

BELMONT, The Bronx — Pete Nikolopoulos, the mustachioed longtime owner of Pete’s Cafe on Fordham Road in The Bronx, died of a heart attack at the age of 56 while on a business trip in Greece, reports the New York Times.

Pete's Cafe in The Bronx, T-Shirt Front

Pete's Cafe T-Shirt / Photo by Stephen Baron

Nikolopoulos was a descendant of Greek Revolution Captain Antonis Nikolopoulos, according to the Greek Reporter USA via BoogieDowner. He had come to New York in the 1970s, working as a busboy and dishwasher before buying the diner in 1978.

I’ve only been in the diner once, while on assignment for the Norwood News in late summer 2008 to cover a City Council coffee with reporters.

Though I didn’t eat anything, I remember walking in and seeing Pete: slick jet-black hair, wide lapels on the suit…and the mustache! I sport a much-less-impressive mustache, and was in awe of this man with the perfectly twirled ‘stache, who never left the ’70s.

After the meeting, I bought the black-on-white t-shirt: the front (above) with the portrait of Pete (with the chest hair detail!) and the back that says “Go Rams Go!” for the Fordham University Rams.

I proudly wore the t-shirt at the awesome Ting Tings/MGMT concert at McCarren Park Pool during the Summer of ’08: The Last of the (McCarren Park) Pool Parties.

I had thought I’d beat the hipsters at their own game. Where would they have seen a retro shirt like mine? It turns out I was underdressed — where were my rubberband wristbands, aviators and mismatched Chuck Taylors? But I didn’t care. I had the Pete’s Cafe t-shirt. Those kids probably have never been to The Bronx.

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