On a Tuesday morning during the Christmas Holidays the Port Noarlunga Fish and Chips Shop (also known as Jimmy’s Fish and Chips) is full of people -tourists and locals alike- queuing up to enjoy freshly, hand cut chips and some of the best fish in Adelaide’s south.
Behind the counter meeting and greeting their customers is owner Jimmy Leonardos with his daughter Marina.
“I love what I do,” Jimmy (nicknamed ‘Old Man’), 70, says with a beaming smile.
With almost half a century combined experience in the hospitality industry, he and his Italian wife Kathy, had been running the business for three decades before their daughter Marina and son-in-law Kosta, took over the daily operations a few years ago.
“We got tired after all these years working non-stop and it was time to slow down. Marina and Kosta are doing great. We are by their side and they have our support,” Jimmy says proudly.
Throughout our interview, the Greek Australian restaurateur extends warm smiles to everyone that passes through his doors and exchanges jokes with the employees who are more like family.
It’s obvious that the business is a second home to him.
“We had nothing when we came to Australia from Epidavros, apart from some relatives who had immigrated to South Australia in the 1950s,” he says, when I ask him to delve into his family’s story.
It took them nearly a month aboard one of the Chandris Line migrant ships to reach Australian soil. Jimmy was then 10 years old.
“I was one of six children and there was no financial assistance for families back then apart from a $2 government relief payment for every child in the family.
“We had to work to support ourselves”
During the early years, the family lived in Renmark in a picker’s house for four years where they all did grape picking and pruning to make ends meet before they had enough savings to buy a house in Adelaide.
Jimmy was attending High school and, in the weekends, he was working at his uncle’s Fish and Chips shops in North Adelaide where he discovered his passion that he later turned into a business.
“I have done nothing else in my life but this,” he says.
Providing the community with quality food remains his most valued priority.
“We don’t sell something we don’t feed our family with,” clarifies Jimmy.
This value has been upheld and passed on to the new generations.
“Every night, no matter the workload and how busy the day has been we filter our oils,” son-in-law, Kosta says.
“There is a lot of work involved but we’d rather do this than compromise our quality and undermine our reputation. We respect our customers.”
Kosta admits that their business is neither immune to the challenges brought-on by the pandemic nor to general supply issues the industry is currently facing but the family chose to keep an optimistic perspective while supporting local growers and fishermen whenever they can.
“I come to the shop with a smile on my face or I don’t come at all,” he says boldly.
“We have a long-lasting legacy and we will not let it slip. We will be here for a long time to come. For at least another 30 years.”
Freshly cooked food, some Greek ‘Philotimo’, warm hospitality and a bright smile to go with all this!
Here is to the next 30 years Port Noarlunga Fish and Chips Shop!