A Garden of Seasonal Delights
The Giorgios Group expands into
Raleigh with its newest restaurant, and the iconic
hospitality brand isn’t stopping there.
By Alex Dixon / Photograhy by Shannon Kelly Photo
Giorgios Nikolas Bakatsias has overseen the opening of more than 100 restaurants over three decades, but he says his work is just beginning. “Hospitality and serving is a great honor to me and a love affair for me,” says Bakatsias, the founder and owner of Giorgios Group, which includes in its portfolio nearly a dozen popular and iconic restaurants throughout the Triangle, from Chapel Hill steakhouse Bin 54 to Durham’s French bistro Vin Rouge. “I feel like I’m only in the beginning stages of doing my work of serving the community.”
Giorgios Group’s newest addition, Rosewater Kitchen & Bar, is set to open in Raleigh’s Park District at North Hills later this summer. The 120-seat restaurant will be reminiscent of a garden party, and will be a place where European romance and high-quality North Carolina ingredients meet, Bakatsias says. Rosewater will offer everything from a grab-and-go breakfast paired with a coffee program to a festive Mediterranean dinner environment in the evening.
Bakatsias describes the new restaurant as “a secret garden concept that reflects the meaning of seasonality,” where diners can engage in “a shared experience where you can build what you wish.” An exposed kitchen next to the bar will lend to the intimate atmosphere.
Although Rosewater will be Giorgios Group’s only restaurant in Raleigh, the City of Oaks is not unfamiliar terrain to Bakatsias. He is always paying attention—noting how the market is changing, listening to what his customers want, and what the wider community wants. The seasoned restaurateur is constantly fine-tuning details, and isn’t afraid to make the tough decision to close a restaurant if the concept isn’t working out as planned. Bakatsias says that although Durham, where he has lived since emigrating from Greece to the United States with his family at age 12, will always be a base for him, he decided to return to Raleigh with a restaurant because of the community and continuing growth. And while the group hasn’t shared plans on any other Raleigh restaurant concepts in the works, he says they are always open to meaningful partnerships and expansion.
Although Giorgios Group’s restaurants span many cuisines and locations, from local-focused Farm Table Kitchen & Bar in Wake Forest to Bakatsias’ native Greek cuisine at Kipos in Chapel Hill, Bakatsias says he is always influenced and inspired by his upbringing in the small diner his parents opened after arriving in Durham. His two greatest gifts, he says, have been his amazing parents and ancestors, along with the community appreciating his restaurants.
Some of Giorgios Group’s restaurants have been open longer than 15 years, and some of the team members have been with the group for 30 years. Choosing team members is a task that Bakatsias approaches as carefully as selecting details for a new restaurant concept. “I take time to understand the candidate,” Bakatsias says. “It’s important that they cook for me, and I often go out to dinner with them, talk to them about the food, and take note of how they treat the servers.”
It’s also critical that new candidates align with the envisioned concept. “They have to understand and become the concept,” Bakatsias says. “If they don’t become it, then the contradiction between the concept and their influence is too great.”
Bakatsias came to the Triangle when the food scene was nothing like it is today, and taking part in the evolution over the past few decades led him to stay. And as the food scene has evolved, so has his career. “First, I was interested in very high-end European culture and fine dining,” he says. “Then, I wanted to bring back a relaxed atmosphere and the ingredients I grew up with. I wanted people to realize that food doesn’t have to be expensive to be good.”
Bakatsias credits his success to his ability to adapt. “You have to change; you cannot be static in what you do,” he says. “You have to be creating and evolving to become something relevant.”
But perhaps even more important than adaptation is intention. “Some say I have had a significant impact on the dining scene, but I say it is an everyday enjoyment to wake up and do it,” he says. “I have a genuine love for hospitality, and I made a commitment to being here and launching projects and experimenting with different concepts continuously. I continue to give to the community from my heart.”