When John Walter Constantinou was 16, people asked him if he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. At the time, George Constantinou owned Constantinou’s House of Beef in Trolley Square. “I said, ‘Look at my father,’” Constantinou recalls. “‘He works seven days a week, 12 hours a day—do you think I want to make that same mistake?’”
Apparently, he couldn’t help himself. His father closed Constantinou’s in 1986 and Constantinou went into real estate. Yet he often looked longingly at the restaurant listings that crossed his desk, analyzing their potential. In 1993, he opened Walter’s Steakhouse on Union Street in Little Italy.
Constantinou carries on a family tradition on multiple fronts. His grandfather came to the United States from Greece at age 14 and became a cook. By that age, Constantinou was working in his father’s restaurant. Like his father, Constantinou embraced the steak house concept. “He liked steak house customers; they were businesspeople and extroverts—the type of people my father enjoys,” he says.
He’s seen a lot of changes in the steak house sector. Customers, he says, are more experimental. He created an optional “java char-crust” seasoning with finely ground house-blend coffee, herbs and spices for those who want to add pizzazz.
Constantinou, who enjoys a good prime rib, is never sick of steak. His kids, however, have their moments. “Steak again?” his daughter asked when he fired up the grill on a Sunday, the only day he has dinner at home.
Despite his determination at age 16 to avoid the hospitality industry, he’s not regretted his choice to open Walter’s. “There’s a certain amount of satisfaction you get from a career when you enjoy the work,” he says.