SOMERS, N.Y. – Somers’ newest eatery is a dream come true for owner Maria Lluka, who, even as a child in Albania, hoped to come to America and open her own business.
Lluka finally got here 12 years ago and soon found a job working as a bus girl at the Olympic Diner on Route 6. The diner’s owner, Jack Skirianos, offered to train her as a waitress, with the proviso she continue to work there, once trained.
“He understood how it was,” she said, “because he was an immigrant from Greece.”
Lluka did learn the ins and outs of good service and did continue working at the Olympic for 10 years. During that decade, while working six or sometimes seven days a week, she took English classes at BOCES and saved enough money to buy a house and a car and, finally, to open her own little diner.
By chance, she saw that Jesse’s Deli in Somers was for sale. It was a big step and she felt nervous about it. “But it was close to my house and close to the Olympic Diner, so I thought some customers might follow me,” she said.
“When I went in, it felt like home,” she recalled. “I was nervous. I thought, ‘It won’t be easy,’ but it was my dream. I had tears in my eyes when I got the key.”
The night before the diner was to open in November, Lluka woke up at 1 a.m. “I was really nervous. I had no cook or anything. I got up and went into the kitchen and started making home fries. ‘Well’, I thought, ‘I do know how to make breakfast. I can find a cook later.’”
“The next day, there was a snow storm. I went to the diner at 5 a.m. and started making home fries. My mother, my husband and my two grandsons all came to help when we opened at 7 a.m. And people started coming in right away.”
The popular new Somers Diner, at the intersection of Route 202 and Lovell Street, has just expanded into the adjacent space. The menu includes many Greek specialties, as well as traditional American diner fare.
“Albania and Greece have different languages,” Lluka explained, “but the traditions and the food are the same.”