Restaurateur's personality added spice to meals
By Matthew Santoni
Published: Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Few first-time customers of the Richland Restaurant would have guessed that its owner and head cook could speak Greek or quote Shakespeare; flew his single-propeller plane every chance he got; or could listen and tell stories with a skill and empathy that made politicians and ministers take notice.
Peter Kostas Jr. ran the Richland for almost 40 years on Route 8, across from the First Presbyterian Church of Bakerstown. The Rev. Richard A. Moreledge ate “many, many, many” meals there while living at the church's parsonage.
“He knew a lot of Shakespeare, a lot of poetry. You don't expect that of a chef or a cook,” said Moreledge. “You couldn't help but like Pete Kostas. He always greeted you warmly, he understood people and he understood human nature. You don't find many people like that.”
Moreledge will bury his old friend and favorite chef Tuesday. Mr. Kostas died Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, from pneumonia, in UPMC Passavant in McCandless. He was 91.
Mr. Kostas was “born into the restaurant business” in Homestead to a Greek immigrant family, according to his son, Peter Bruce Kostas, also of the Bakerstown section of Richland. He met his future wife, Margaret Cosentino, because she would regularly walk past his father's restaurant in Carnegie, Peter said.
He enlisted in the Marines during World War II and spent his early service stateside as a cook. According to family lore, Mr. Kostas' Greek cuisine was such a favorite among the officers that they gave him keys to a Jeep to go shopping for better ingredients whenever he liked. When his name initially didn't appear on a list for promotions, he angrily cooked subpar food for the officers until he was advanced two ranks at once.
He reached the rank of Sergeant 1st Class and was sent to Guadalcanal, where he became a crew chief, supervising maintenance of airplanes.
Returning from the war, Mr. Kostas bought what became the Richland Restaurant from his oldest brother, Angelo, and made it into a community institution with his excellent service, his sense of humor and his always-fresh food.
It also had a very busy catering operation, a banquet hall and two apartments where Mr. Kostas housed Greek relatives until they could start their own business.
“He didn't believe in frozen food, let me tell you,” Peter Kostas said. “I remember staying up all night breading chicken and parboiling eggs ... and Wholey's would deliver fresh fish every weekend.”
Mr. Kostas retired and sold his restaurant in the late 1970s. It eventually closed, and the church bought the building in 1985. Mr. Kostas flew a succession of small airplanes and became a captain in the Civil Air Patrol.
Mr. Kostas was predeceased by his wife, a son, Gary Kostas, and his siblings Angelo Kostas, George Kostas, Alice Kritko and Christ Kostas. In addition to his son, Peter, he is survived by his daughters, Sharyn Miller of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and Lisa Cicin of Cary, N.C.; his sister, Helen Downs of Rehobeth Beach, Del.; and six grandchildren.
Visitation will be held from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday in Schellhaas Funeral Home on Heckert Road in Bakerstown. Services will be held at 2 p.m. in the chapel at Jefferson Memorial Park in Jefferson Hills. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to VA Butler Healthcare.
Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.