- Associated Press - Sunday, August 16, 2015

GRANITE FALLS, Wash. (AP) - A mural in Barbara Petrakopoulos’ restaurant has her juggling phone calls, pizzas and crowds of new customers asking for her by name.

It all started last week when the Internet erupted with the news that Hollywood hero Chris Pratt - star of the blockbusters “Jurassic World” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” - had painted a mural on the wall of his friend’s parents’ restaurant more than a decade ago, years before millions of fans knew his name.

One such fan spotted the mural while dining at Omega Pizza and Pasta, a family-owned Greek and Italian restaurant at the corner of South Granite Avenue and East Stanley Street in Granite Falls. The fan shared his discovery of the artwork, signed “Chris Pratt,” on the social media website imgur. Pratt, 36, confirmed its authenticity on Twitter on Aug. 4.

“Haha! Yes!” he tweeted. “Find my mural at Omega Pizza and Pasta in Granite Falls, WA. Barb will take good care of you.”

Some people have known about the mural for years and fans stopped in to check it out, Petrakopoulos said. But it’s never been quite like the rush after last week’s shout-out from Pratt and the subsequent articles in entertainment publications around the country. Now, customers who have driven hours to grab a meal and snap photos of the mural - which depicts a Grecian man and woman relaxing - walk into the distinctive brick building on the corner and ask for Barb.

“I’m the one that will take care of you, no matter who you are,” Petrakopoulos said Friday. “You don’t have to be famous.”

She and her husband, Kostas, own the restaurant and look forward to celebrating 20 years of business in February. Pratt has been friends with their son, Alex, 36, since the two were kids.

The whole Petrakopoulos family is proud of Pratt, she said, including Alex, his parents and their extended family in Greece and Germany.

“He’s a good gentleman, a good friend, a good father, a good husband,” Petrakopoulos said. “And he is a good actor now. He has blossomed.”

She’s always excited to see him when he’s in town and has time to stop by with his wife, Anna Faris, another Hollywood star from Snohomish County, and their young son. Pratt grew up in Lake Stevens; Faris in Edmonds.

Last week wasn’t the first time Pratt put in a good word for his friend’s family restaurant. When in Snohomish County, he likes to hike on trails up the Mountain Loop Highway and stop at Omega for lunch or dinner, he said in an interview last year. He’s mentioned Omega on social media multiple times, directing people there when they tweet that they’re in the area.

Barbara Petrakopoulos is grateful. It makes her happy to see local kids become successful, she said. She’s even happier to see them give back and stay true to their roots.

“We have somebody from here that has made it and he’s made it big,” she said. “He’s such a nice person and a good man.”

He may have gotten paint all over the restaurant floor when he created the now-famous mural, but cleaning up the mess was more than worth it, she said.

“This is what he does for us,” Petrakopoulos said. “We’re a small business and he’s really helped us. We’re just ordinary people that like to cook.”

Barbara, 59, and Kostas, 69, specialize in from-scratch Italian and Greek food, she said.

Though work has been hectic since Pratt’s mural went viral, she’s determined to make sure the food and service bring people back after they’ve had their fill of the artwork. She doesn’t hesitate to pause during an interview about Pratt to pull a pizza out of the oven, walk a check over to a table or ask a departing customer how the food was.

The shout-outs from Pratt mean more than people realize, not just for publicity and business, but because she knows he means them from the heart, Petrakopoulos said.

“And we consider all of our stuff special because we do it from the heart,” she said.


Information from: The Daily Herald, https://www.heraldnet.com

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