George Constantinou, who is most notably “Husband and Daddy to 5-year-old boy/girl twins,” launched Bogota Latin Bistro in 2005 and Miti Miti Modern Mexican in 2014, along with his spouse Farid Ali Lancheros. In this latest installment of the Slope Survey, Constantinou shows both his entrepreneurial and community spirit.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO PARK SLOPE?
We didn’t come to Park Slope so much as it came to us. We searched high and low through Brooklyn for our dream location. The space that houses Bogota Latin Bistro presented itself after having exhausted our efforts, wondering if we’d ever find a home. Finally in 2004, after looking at 50 locations, 141 Fifth Avenue showed up.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE PARK SLOPE MOMENT?
One is the first time I experienced the annual Fabulous 5th Avenue Fair, while Bogota was still under construction. The neighborhood was so welcoming and couldn’t wait for us to open. I still see some of those faces in my restaurant 12 years later. Having my family asked to be Grand Marshals for the annual Brooklyn Pride Parade certainly was another memorable moment. Farid and I with the kids in the back seat of a convertible with pride flags and a bubble machine driving down Fifth Avenue waving to the crowd was amazing.
A GOOD DAY FOR YOU IS…
A busy night, when both restaurants are packed with happy guests and my staff is hustling and bustling to deliver a great product and experience. Sometimes you can find me at Bogota’s host stand or in Miti’s kitchen making sure things are running smoothly. The energy of a busy restaurant is a natural high. I cap off this good day at the bar of one of my restaurants having some fish tacos or bandeja paisa.
DESCRIBE YOUR COMMUNITY SUPERPOWER.
My restaurants offer guests an opportunity to escape from the busy, stressful life of NYC. Guests come to have fun and socialize with their friends, family, and loved ones. To have created an environment like that, which is both profitable and personally rewarding, is pretty powerful. Another superpower: my contribution to the Brooklyn economy. I provide jobs to over 85 employees, 95% of whom live in Brooklyn, so that money stays local.
IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT THE NEIGHBORHOOD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Cheaper rents, both commercial and residential. Barclays Center has impacted Park Slope’s retail landscape, not necessarily positively. A wave of businesses that opened at the same time we did are no longer around. Higher rents will only attract the chains with deep pockets to survive the crucial first years of the start-up phase. I hope the new restaurants coming in will add to Park Slope’s charm.
WHAT DO YOU THINK PARK SLOPE WILL LOOK LIKE IN 10 YEARS? IN 20 YEARS?
NYC is changing at a rapid pace, and always has been. Park Slope will change, too. I can’t predict how, but I hope it still has the charm brought by independent businesses. Also, Park Slope has always been a diverse community. I hope it stays that way, and people aren’t priced out.
WHAT WERE YOUR CHILDHOOD NICKNAMES?
The mean Long Island kids called me Georgie Porgie; Butterballs, as I was a chunky kid; and Ghandi Presley, because of my great brown skin and great hair that always had gel in it.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST EXTRAVAGANCE?
I mostly spend money on food and my kids. I also plan on traveling this year, maybe to Colombia, Cyprus, Hawaii, and Las Vegas.
IF YOU COULDN’T LIVE IN PARK SLOPE OR IN BROOKLYN, WHERE WOULD YOU GO?
Unfortunately, we no longer live here. Last year, Farid and I moved our twins to South Orange, NJ, a nice town with plenty of room for the kids to run around. South Orange’s diversity reminds me of Park Slope circa 2005. We’ll probably open up our third restaurant in South Orange. Now I commute to Park Slope 4 – 6 days a week, so I spend most of my time here.
WHO IS YOUR HERO, REAL OR FICTIONAL?
My heroes always change depending on what’s going on in the world. Anyone who commits a random act of kindness or stands up for injustice anywhere is my hero. I was recently inspired by an article about Eartha Kitt, who spoke out against the Vietnam War while at a White House Ladies Luncheon in 1968, which made Lady Bird Johnson cry. As a result Eartha Kitt’s career suffered for a few years. This act of bravery makes Eartha Kitt one of my heroes.