Fans and lovers of Dimitri’s International Grille learned late Monday that the Catonsville roadside restaurant on Frederick Road was closing its doors under current management, flooding the comments section of its Facebook page with emotional responses.
The announcement on the Dimitri’s Facebook page was equally emotional, reading: “Beloved Catonsville Community, It is with much thought and a heavy heart that we write this letter to inform you we have made the very difficult decision to sell Dimitri’s International Grille. With that said, we will be closing our Catonsville Landmark on March 14, 2021.”
The place has been open since 1962 when Jimmy “Dimitri” Coroneos bought what was formerly the 8-Mile House with his wife, Millie.
The couple posted this message on Facebook: “Dimitris Family is ending a most wonderful and pleasurable journey serving you and your families for more than half a century, since 1962. Our passion to serve the Catonsville community while becoming a destination restaurant was due to your constant support and praise, which made us incredibly happy and blessed throughout the years. Thank you for the memories. Jim and Millie.”
Their daughter, Litsa Wethern, and her husband Tom Wethern, 52, joined the family business and are co-owners and general managers.
“It’s a bittersweet thing and we are asking people to be happy for us because it wasn’t like we were chased, it was just an incredibly handsome deal that fell in our lap and my wife and I have been here 25 years rocking and put a great run together, but we want to do other things in life too,” Tom Wethern said.
Early on, Dimitri’s was known for Greek food, beef kabobs and gyros. American food and its German specialty — sour beef and dumplings — were later added, along with Italian food and many other menu items.
When asked what his favorite food at the restaurant, Wethern responded, “Lamb chops, the Greek lamb chops are absolutely spectacular.”
Many of the comments on Facebook focused on how folks will miss the mouth-watering delicacies.
Longtime Catonsville resident Pat Muir posted, “Awe. That made me cry...for years ours and my in-laws favorite place...sure will miss my sour beef...thank you for the memories...you will be missed...”
“Loved the Gyros and Beef Kabobs!” posted Shari Manger.
The Dimitri’s post continued praising the community for supporting them for so many events: “During these decades of operating Dimitri’s International Grille, we have watched each other’s families grow, as you have supported us. We have helped you to celebrate milestone events, birthdays, holidays, baptisms, retirements, anniversaries, funerals to everyday memorable meals to simple social weekly gatherings.”
Families watched their children get their first jobs there and often ate in the expanded dining rooms or outside on one of the two decks.
“The amount of young people that we’ve brought in and hired and trained and taught a work ethic to, it’s pretty rare for somebody to come here and only work a year,” said Wethern, whose children Alex and Kalli also worked at the restaurant. “When they come here they are typically here for two to five to 10 years working their way through college, high school, side jobs and it’s a lot more than the money, it’s kind of a home base for a lot of people.”
Local adult softball and basketball teams enjoyed victories in the sports lounge bar area watching the Orioles or Ravens or Maryland Terrapins.
When asked what he will miss most, Wethern answered: “Being a positive influence in the community if I could put it in one sentence and detailing that hiring young people and teaching them work ethic, positive attitudes and starting them at such a young age and watching them grow and succeed and mature, that’s what I’m going to miss the most.”
While COVID-19 forced many restaurants out of business around the state, Dimitri’s continued to operate through all the obstacles.
“Catering was a big part of our business and that was certainly gone,” Wethern said. “We’ve been really fortunate that our business was able to transform to carry out. “We had enormous support for carry out. It was an unbelievable amount of support.”
Wethern isn’t sure what the future holds for he and his wife Litsa, but he’s not in a hurry to find out.
“We have some interests, but there is nothing planned right now,” he said. “We are going to take some time to reflect, take care of our own and then figure out another direction.”
Near the conclusion of the Dimitri’s post they wrote: “Our family, staff, and establishment will miss all of you! We are incredibly happy and blessed to have crossed paths with all of you. Finally, we would like to end with a quote from the Great Greek Orator Pericles: ‘What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.’ "