When Restaurants Run in the Family

by Dee Fisher


Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family.

Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.

~Jane Howard


In 1970, a truck driver of Greek descent from Canton, Ohio found out that one of his favorite stops, the Van-Del Truck Stop on two-lane Route 30 outside Delphos, was about to close. Whether it was luck or fate, the driver and his wife purchased the business and the property, and they moved their family of four children, two boys and two girls, to Van Wert County.

For six months, the family lived on-site, sleeping in the old truckers’ bunks and working at the business—even the kids helped after school. Once the family purchased a home and moved out of the truck stop, they still spent most of their time at the business.

And, they made it a going concern for several years. Then, the former trucker—and successful restaurateur—wisely sold the truck stop just before a four-lane highway opened between Delphos and Van Wert in 1979.

Nick Pampas was one of the four children who helped operate the truck stop. “My dad established our work ethic from the very beginning—‘You live in my house, you work,’” Nick explains. “We understood what he expected of us, and he taught us what it takes to make it in the small business world.”

You’ve probably been to several of the Pimpas family’s restaurants in the Van Wert/Delphos area. Nicki’s Pizza is one of the most recent, and it’s a going concern. “We have something for everyone, for every taste,” says Nick. “Come and enjoy my family’s food!”

Nick grew up working in the family’s restaurants, including the Topp Chalet in Delphos, which is now owned by his brother. “I was 18 years old when I made my first pizza,” Nick reminisces. He later managed several eateries, including Flanagans in Fort Wayne, Indiana (which he opened for its owner) and Beef & Bourbon/Twist & Shout in Fort Shawnee, Ohio.

It was while he was working in Fort Shawnee that Nick learned the Westside Pizza place down the road was up for sale. After some negotiations, he purchased the business and property and became his own boss.

“I worked all the time,” Nick says. “My whole family does that. And, we help each other. If we’re in a family restaurant somewhere, it’s expected that we help out as needed. My family is very tight-knit, and we believe in pitching in.”

Nick’s pizza business in Fort Shawnee was successful enough to allow for a second location in Cridersville. “It was a lot of work, and it was tough, since my home was still in Delphos,” Nick recalls. “When I heard of a property available in Van Wert, I immediately checked into it, as it was closer.”

In May of 2009, Nicko’s Pizza opened in Van Wert. “We don’t have a dining area, as the building isn’t set up for it,” explains Nick. “We do carry out and delivery, however! We will bring your food, fresh and hot, to your door, or you can come pick it up.

“From the beginning, we have rolled out individual pizzas from fresh dough we purchase weekly, and we cut our own fresh vegetables three to four times a week.” He adds, “The real secret to the unique flavor of the pizzas is in the sauce, which is a recipe I got from my mother.” That recipe is a tightly guarded secret—something that sets Nicko’s apart from other pizza places.

Nick quotes his father on their menu: “Through our doors walk the finest people on earth, our customers.” One of the greatest goals at Nicko’s is to make sure the food is freshly prepared and delicious. With over 30 years of experience, Nick Pimpas provides quite an array of foods at reasonable prices.

Nicki’s offers nine specialty pizzas, including Meat Lover’s, Deluxe, Ranch Chicken, and Greek. “One of our specialties is Greek cuisine. We have pizzas with Greek-style ingredients, Greek salad, and gyros. Every Thursday is ‘Greek Day’ at Nicko’s; we take 15% off all Greek-flavored items.”

The menu at Nickos includes appetizers, such as mozzarella sticks, wings, and cheese-stuffed breadsticks; salads, including ham chef and crispy chicken; subs with ham, turkey, and steak; sandwiches, including tenderloins and chicken filet; and full dinners, including chicken tenders, crunchy cod and shrimp and fries. There are even sweet treats like funnel cakes and choco-bites.

Nick works at providing an economically-friendly menu to his customers. Prices for non-pizza items range from $1.95 for fries to $9.95 for boneless wings. Pizza prices are as low as $6.75 for an 11-inch cheese pizza up to $25.75 for a loaded 18-inch Greek pizza. Even the dinners average about $7.00 in price.

One Nicko’s Pizza special is two-pronged: an 18-inch 2-item pizza with breadsticks for $19.99, and an 15-inch 2-item pizza with breadsticks for $16.49. This special is available all the time!

However, Nick pointed out that he would not be able to do this alone. “I have employees other than my extended family. No matter if they’re related to me or not, I do my best to treat all my help well, making this a place where they’re appreciated and needed.

“Without good help, you’re nothing! My father taught me that, too.”

Greg Regina has been the manager of Nickos Pizza for the last six years. “Greg is my right-hand man,” Nick says. “He knows everything about this place and can run it very efficiently and confidently.

“He makes my life a lot easier. Without someone like that in a business, the owner has to micro-manage everything. I have Greg to watch out for me.”

Nicko’s Pizza is open from 3 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays; and, from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. They are closed on Mondays.

Nicko’s Pizza
404 S. Wayne Street
Van Wert, OH 45891
(419) 238-3404

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