Our story is lengthy, but worth the read.
Angelo’s father, George Petrandis, constructed the original building in 1945. He built the structure of salvaged lumber and nails acquired from the closing of Camp Gordon Johnson at St. Teresa Beach. The pilings for the foundation were purchased for one dollar each. For the first few years of operation generators also bought from the Army camp provided the only electricity. Later, Mr. Petrandis bought the poles that would run power from the entrance of Panacea to the bridge finally bringing electricity to the area.
The George’s Café & Bar was cleverly positioned over the waters of Ochlockonee Bay in order to be located in a “wet” county; Leon and Wakulla were dry at the time. It was this novel placement that permitted the establishment to sell alcohol and is the reason that George’s quickly became a favorite watering hole for the residents of Tallahassee and South Georgia. But it was the food more than the bar that began to draw crowds.
During the summer months of the 1950’s, it was not uncommon to see cars parked all the way from the water back to the intersection and overflowing into the neighboring filling station’s lot. Customers patiently waited for a chance to dine on the fresh local seafood over the very water from which it came. It was around this time that Angelo could be found standing on a box in order to reach the fryer where he was learning to cook hushpuppies. He bussed tables as his older brothers and father cooked in the back and his aunt and mother, Bulah, served the seafood dinners they were becoming famous for. Angelo was a quick study and, under the tutelage of his father, was soon preparing the plates himself.
During a sixteen year run, Angelo and his wife Arline operated the restaurant out of a building just up the road from the original structure. In March of 1985 after extensive renovations to the old building, they were finally able to move the business back to its home over the water. In the years following 1973, Angelo and Arline also busied themselves by raising their three children Thomas, Yasmin, and Lila as “restaurant babies”. They each progressed from riding Fisher Price cars through the dining room to bussing tables, washing dishes, making salads, cooking, cashiering, and tending bar.
It was Thomas who showed the most desire to continue the legacy and in the late 1990’s Angelo and Arline began the process of turning the restaurant over to the next generation. Thomas’ obvious talent and love of creative food combinations resulted in a menu that included many new specialty dishes. Soon the restaurant had its first computerized register and bookkeeping system. Thomas and his wife Jennifer were steadily increasing the customer base while continuing to serve the fresh seafood that had become the hallmark of Petrandis cooking.
On July 10th, 2005 Hurricane Denis struck, changing all of our plans and greatly challenging the future of Angelo’s. The old building, which had stood for sixty years, sadly suffered irreparable damage. The only choice was to complete the demolition the storm had begun and start from scratch. And so began the lengthy process of planning, permitting, financing, and constructing. Without the determination and vision that Angelo possessed, this process would never have been completed. With the help of family and friends the project became a reality. Without such, the landmark building simply would not exist.
As the latest chapter of our family restaurant saga begins, Thomas and Jennifer have opened their Tropical Trader Seafood Market and Restaurant. Arline and Angelo have gotten back to the grill and back to the guests. Yasmin is training to “cook like her daddy” here in the big kitchen. Lila is in Austin as a Medical Exercise Specialist, but true to her restaurant upbringing, is bartending on the side. All proof positive of the old adage “You’ll never get out of the restaurant business alive”. The customers and the owners have lived and loved, worked and dined, for three generations of friendship and business.
In our family this will always serve as a powerful example of Ecclesiastes 3: 12-13 “I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil - this is the gift of God.”
5 Mashes Sands Road
Panacea, FL 32346