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Lights, camera, dinner: Reality show focuses on Kappy’s Restaurant in Morton Grove

Kappy's Co-owner George Alpogianis gives waiters directions while being filmed for a potential documentary or reality TV show.  |  Rick Kambic/Sun-Times Media
Kappy's Co-owner George Alpogianis is interviewed by a camera crew from Kurtis Productions for a potential documentary or reality TV show.  |  Rick Kambic/Sun-Times Media
TV Producer Tania Lindsay works with her technical crew while following the Alpogianis family on Sept. 15 when Kappy's Restaurant & Pancake House closed for renovations.  |  Rick Kambic/Sun-Times Media
Kappy's co-owner Gus Alpogianis waits for an order from the kitchen while being filmed for a potential documentary or reality TV show.  |  Rick Kambic/Sun-Times Media
A camera crew from Kurtis Productions films cooks working on food that Kappy's co-owner Georgo Alpogianis orders.  |  Rick Kambic/Sun-Times Media
Kappy's co-owner Manolis Alpogianis is interviewed by a camera crew from Kurtis Productions for a potential documentary or reality TV show.  |  Rick Kambic/Sun-Times Media
Kappy's co-owners Manolis, left, and George Alpogianis talk business during the lunch hour rush Sept. 15 in front of cameras from Kurtis Productions.  |  Rick Kambic/Sun-Times Media
Kappy's co-owners Gus Alpogianis takes a breather during the lunch hour rush Sept. 15. The cameras from Kurtis Productions missed this sigh of relief.  |  Rick Kambic/Sun-Times Media
A riled-up George Alpogianis leaves the kitchen after an interview with Kurtis Productions.  |  Rick Kambic/Sun-Times Media

Camera crews for prominent television journalist Bill Kurtis have been seen following George Alpogianis to collect footage for a potential profile on his family or pilot reality TV show.

Alpogianis is a Niles village trustee and co-owner of Kappy’s Restaurant & Pancake House, in Morton Grove. The cameras were led by producer Tania Lindsay, in conjunction with Kurtis’s side company, Kurtis Productions.

Lindsay produced the 2009 TV series “The Entrepreneurs (Toms Shoes and Frontera Foods)”, as well as the 2010 TV movie documentary “The Abduction of Jaycee Dugard” and 2010 TV movie “The American Tax Cheat.”

The crew was on hand Sept. 15 when Kappy’s closed for renovation, and family members said cameras have filmed them at home and on errands too.

Lindsay emphasized that her visits are experimental, and she’s unsure what angle her team would take if a documentary or pilot TV show were pursued.

Gus Alpogianis and his sons George and Manolis all share a stake in the restaurant, and the trio believes Kurtis Productions will profile the family or do a pilot reality TV show on how decisions are made at family-owned businesses.

“We usually talk business and make decisions every Sunday before having a big family dinner together at the old house,” George Alpogianis said. “My brother (Manolis) usually critiques how things operate and are executed. He says I’m too personal and I need to be more down-to-business.”

Manolis Alpogianis agreed with that assessment.

“He’s a chef. He should worry about the quality and presentation of the food, not be everyone’s best friend,” Manolis Alpogianis said.

The two brothers have a key phrase for when conversations get heated, like when they debated how to revise the menu for when the restaurant reopens.

“When one of us says ‘I feel strongly about this,’ the other knows to back off their point,” Manolis Alpogianis said. “It’s our safety net to keep us from forgetting we’re family.”

Gus, who first started the restaurant, doesn’t often make his presence known at the restaurant, but reportedly has heavy oversight.

“He’s the ultimate authority,” Manolis Alpogianis said. “Every major decision has to run by him, and he doesn’t play favorites.”

Kappy’s was originally known as Tops Big Boy until Gus Alpogianis and two business associates bought the restaurant 1979 and renamed it using an abbreviation of their last names.

Both sons started working in the restaurant as teenagers, beginning as dishwashers and busboys. George Alpogianis became a cook at age 17 and continued for three years until enrolling in culinary school at Kendall College of Chicago.

After graduating in 1989, George Alpogianis cooked at various Chicago restaurants until landing at Rosebud Restaurant in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood.

Manolis Alpogianis went another route, studying business. He says he helped open the original Maggiano’s restaurant and got the California Pizza Kitchen into the Water Tower building.

“I like to be hands-on and my experience is at the back of the house; he’s the Ralph Lauren of restaurants, a mastermind and delegator at the front of the house,” George Alpogianis said.

In 2000, George became manager of Kappy’s after he and Manolis bought out their father’s partners.

The trio was running Kappy’s together in front of cameras on Sept. 15 and did their best to be cheerful and play up a few outbursts, but they did pull waiters aside at times to calm tempers or reassign blame on a different Alpogianis.

During personal, one-on-one interviews with Lindsay, all three talked of family tradition and the thrill of fast-paced service.

Kurtis Productions and the Alpogianis family were reportedly connected through mutual friends.

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