Andy Koutsoudakis, 'Warm, Cheerful' Tribeca Restaurateur, Is Virus Victim

Andy Koutsoudakis in his Tribeca's Kitchen, which he opened in 2014. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Mar. 29, 2020

The coronavirus has taken the life of a longtime Tribeca restaurateur, known to many for his warm, welcoming and cheerful spirit. Andy Koutsoudakis, 59, the owner of Tribeca’s Kitchen on Church Street, died on Friday in Richmond County Medical Center.

Before opening Tribeca’s Kitchen in 2014, Koutsoudakis was the owner with Peter Panayiotou of Gee Whiz, a Tribeca institution opened by the pair in 1989.

“My dad found the spot in Tribeca. Everybody told him he was crazy,” his son Andreas said in a telephone interview on Sunday. “What are you doing down there? There’s nothing over there. It is such an indicator of how he did things.”

“As the neighborhood was being built around them,” he added, “they were already there.”

Koutsoudakis’s death is personal to many of his regulars, who say the owner made them feel like family. “He treated me like I was his Uncle Dave. He used to buy me breakfast every weekend.,” said David Harris, 80, who has been a Tribeca’s Kitchen customer from the day it opened. Since his wife died seven years ago, it’s been his dining spot three and four times a week. “I felt like that was a place where I could just go and sit and read the paper and have coffee and a sandwich and talk to him. Nothing too heavy and personal. He was truly just an unusual person that way. It was like a comfort zone.”

“He was a dear friend to the entire neighborhood and his restaurants were like coming home,” said Bob Townley, executive director of Manhattan Youth and another regular. “Andy was family to me and to all of us.”

Tribeca’s Kitchen has been a favorite of city officials, including Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who tweeted: “Really heartbroken to hear about this terrible virus taking the life of Andy Koutsoudakis…He was a kind, warm, cheerful New Yorker. He was always at the front door welcoming customers.”

Koutsoudakis came to the U.S. from his native Crete at age 14. His parents brought him, then returned home, leaving their son under the supervision of an uncle. “From 14 years old, my dad was on his own and didn’t speak a word of English and didn’t have any money, didn’t have anything,” said his son Andreas. “He quickly jumped into the diner world, full of energy. The same guy you know.”

In 1982, Koutsoudakis returned to Greece to marry his wife Vanna, the girl next door he grew up with, and brought her back to New York. A few years later, he and Panayiotou managed a diner in Chelsea called Chelsea Gallery. Then came Gee Whiz.

“You’re talking about somebody with no opportunity ever,” Andreas said, “and here he is the owner of a New York City restaurant.”

“Andy epitomized the American Dream,” said Amy Sewell, who with her husband Charlie Sewell were dinner regulars every Monday evening at Tribeca’s Kitchen. “He was living it, always.”

Andreas, an attorney and his father’s advisor and close confidante, said there is “no way” he would close Tribeca’s Kitchen, and may be looking to another family member to run it. “I hope people don’t think Tribeca’s Kitchen is just my dad. And without him, it’s not him. Because it is him. Everything he built in there is part of him.”

Even as he lay in the hospital, Koutsoudakis’s generous spirit was present. “We brought the whole staff lunch and dinner every day,” Andreas said. “That’s what my dad would’ve wanted.”

Besides his wife and son, Koutsoudakis is survived by his daughter-in-law Alexia, two granddaughters, Vanna and Zoe, three sisters, four brothers-in-law, two sisters-in-laws and many nieces, nephews and cousins.

In lieu of flowers, the Koutsoudakis family asks that donations be made to a GoFundMe they have established to support the purchase of protective gowns and masks for the staff at Richmond County Medical Center in Staten Island as well as other hospitals.

Do you have a comment? Email



Readers respond to the death of Andy Koutsoudakis

Editor's note: News of the death of Andy Koutsoudakis prompted an outpouring of responses from those who knew him. Following are some of the comments that we have received.


In 1987 the brand new PS 234 school building opened. Flooded with kids the new staff had one universal complaint. There was no place to grab a lunch. No place to take a coffee break.  Tribeca at that time, was a place where you could park your car anywhere but forget getting a simple meal. I don’t remember when it was, but suddenly, shortly, there it was - Gee Whiz, the answer to our prayers.  A wonderful Greek diner.


Over the years Andy and Pete were the best neighbors anyone could ask for. Always with a smile and wide embrace Andy would fill every request.


“The first grade is studying restaurants can we visit the kitchen?” “Can the kindergarten students observe the workers?” “ Can you prepare a luncheon or breakfast for the teaching staff?” “Can you send two cups of coffee to the office?”


After 9/11 Andy arranged for every class to come for a free lunch - 600 kids and teachers! He seemed more thrilled than the kids.


About three years ago I wandered into Andy’s new restaurant not knowing that this was Andy’s new venture. Anyone watching would have thought they were witnessing a family reunion. That was the nature of Andy’s and my exuberance coming upon each other again.


On behalf of all the children and teachers Andy cared for— thank you Andy, you will truly be missed.

Anna Switzer, former principal, PS 234



It’s with extreme sadness I send my deepest heartfelt condolences to the family of Andy Koutsoudakis.  Know that your Dad will be missed by the entire Balloon Saloon staff as it had become an ongoing daily saga of  “What’s for lunch? Turkey Burger, Lemon Chicken Rice soup, BLT…..”  Your Dad was always there, bag of food in hand and a smile on his face.  A sweet gentle soul lost way to soon and missed by so many already and will always be. — Sharon Hershkowitz, Balloon Saloon



We live directly across the street from Tribeca’s Kitchen. We have eaten there so many times, in and take out. Andy and I became true friends. I would talk to him all the time when picking up orders. I was going to visit him in Greece. I’m so sad. I had pushed him for years to replace his plastic packaging with paper. We would laugh about it. On the last time we spoke about it he told me all about the research and testing he had done about it, and about how his clientele would demand the plastic so they could store and microwave the leftovers. We spoke about fishing - he had boat and would fish offshore. I grew up in Maine and was a big water guy. Andy was the most big-hearted, friendly person we can think of in the neighborhood currently. He was important to us and the neighborhood. He treated us like part of his family and took such pride in what he did. This really brings the reality of the pandemic home. —John Atwood 



Both spots [Gee Whiz and Tribeca's Kitchen] are the ultimate power lunch in the neighborhood. Very sad to hear and condolences to his family.  — Former State Senator Daniel Squadron via Twitter 



Andy was the American dream. What a tremendous loss for his family + for NYC. — Justin Kalifowitz via Twitter



Absolutely heartbroken. You printed a photo that captured Andy so perfectly. He defined what it was like to be a restaurateur, and he made you feel like u were family. — Ken Spreitzer via Twitter



I’m so sorry to hear this. Andy built neighborhood fixtures that were such a key part of the Tribeca community and certainly of my childhood. Gee Whiz was the sacred first stop after (and inevitable highlight of) every single little league game, soccer baseball, whatever. RIP. —Peter Kaiteris



A pat on the back, the smile, the welcome he gave always. Jusith Sirreal



This man loved people. I will never forget his genuine smile. — Christiane Rita Aprile



This man took the time to get to know all his customers. Always with a smile and “How are you doing.” We have all gone through so much together. Andy we Toast You. You are such a kind soul. May you rest in peace… — Jillian Gurak Schwam



"andy" by Robert Schneck


andy koutsoudakis

was a smiling man––


his restaurant

made him feel ten feet tall

& every guest felt

naturally at home


he was

a man of purest hospitality

who shared his love

of life & food & people

with his workers, his customers

& his downtown family


tribeca’s kitchen

was his palace of gentility,

nobility & caring––


truly it was

tribeca’s heart