BY JERRY SILIVERDIS
My father Eleftherios “Tony” Siliverdis was born in Kefalonia, Greece, on January 6, 1948. He worked the family farm and loved to hunt and fish on his time off as a youth. Due to political issues, the economic situation of Greece was unprosperous and this forced my grandparents to send my father to work on the ships from a young age. He did not finish high school but was a sharp as a razor.
After fulfilling his Greek Army conscription and spending time in the Greek Navy, he continued as a Merchant Marine. My father sailed all over the world: Japan, Argentina, Egypt, Philippines, Australia, India, the U.S., the U.K., Russia and Hong Kong are just some of the places he has stories of. Whether its black market trading in the Mediterranean Sea, love in Japan or a bar fight reminiscent of a Jackie Chan movie, there is always a lesson, a moral and a lot of hijinks.
My father’s adventures eventually brought him to Thompson, Manitoba, where hard work and cold-climate shock were alleviated by the lifestyle of the First Nations. It was there he finally felt a lifestyle close to nature that paralleled his life as a youth in Greece. These good times would be reflected in the art that hung on the walls at Zorro’s and in the friends he made along the way.
My father eventually moved to Vancouver where he worked in a smelting plant, as a carpenter and as a cook. At this time, he also met the love of his life, my mother Anna, through one of his oldest friends. My mother and father were inseparable when they weren’t working opposite shifts and often enjoyed time out together at Stanley Park.
Life wasn’t without hardship, and for a period of about four years, my father and mother did not enjoy steady employment, often being laid off or taken advantage of because they were poor and immigrants. It was during this time they moved from Vancouver to the projects in Richmond and back and there were days where they had no money to buy their baby milk to feed him.
I don’t know where my father got the information from but Zorro’s was looking for help in 1984 during its time under Terry. It was bleeding money by the day and its customer base was dwindling. My father got the job, cleaned the place up, turned the business around by 1987 and had purchased the store. My mother joined him and times started to turn around for us.
My father was a unique personality. He was very passionate about bringing happiness through cooking and he truly believed he made the best pizza in Vancouver.
Everyone from his enemies to his own blood relatives to him told him he would fail and that he would be begging them for his old jobs back but that only strengthened my father’s resolve to succeed.
Working was his disease and Zorro’s was both cure and anathema. He had poor work-life balance because without Zorro’s we would have nothing and being one of those “life examples” was worse than death. He was a stubborn man whose decisions led him to where he got and he owned them regardless of result. He was as in control of his destiny as one could be in this society and no one would take the reins from him.
My father had a charisma that allowed him to be the life of the party or bring calm to any business transaction. He inspired loyalty, family atmosphere and friendship.
One of his delivery drivers, Jim, still worked for him on the weekends because they got along like family.
My father was a brutally honest sort; politically incorrect without being malicious. He believed in self education and owned and read, multiple times, over 300 Greek and translated-to-Greek books on topics ranging from politics, history, religion, myths and cooking. He definitely was not religious and believed that it caused more problems than it solved, but would still wish others genuine blessings from the heart.
He remembered people by a combination of their orders, addresses and phone numbers and loved to use the excuse of “it’s my birthday” on any random day to give a free pop, topping or whatever to a customer because he was a bit of sensitive softy.
Customers loved his opinions on world events even if they were not likeminded.
Despite the mini-recession of the 1990s, my parents managed to become debt free and set up their children for success. Stuff started to turn around in the early 2000s again and business picked up, but by then my folks were tired and purposely kept the store’s performance down, even opting for a six-day work week. All they wanted to do was fish up the Sunshine Coast and enjoy a good barbecue ling cod.
What ultimately killed my father and put him on a life autopilot was the loss of my mother. They never left one another’s side until early onset Alzheimer’s landed her into a care home. My father stubbornly took care of her for approximately five years before tiring out and asking for a spot in a care home. He visited her almost every weekday and cooked lunch for her. He became jaded, bitter and sad because he was so old fashioned he could never talk about his feelings.
Gone was charismatic Tony and here was the annoying, stubborn, harder-to-live-with-than-normal Tony. The Tony who stopped reading books and watched reality television on his iPad, who didn’t take walks anymore and stopped eating right and never slept. The Tony whose heart stopped a day before his 69th birthday whilst he made tea to fight off the flu. I’m thankful that he had people around who missed him in a 30-minute span to check on him and thankful to those who performed CPR on him until first responders arrived. He didn’t even collect his pension. He missed out on meeting his second grandchild by three months.
My dad worked to make our lives better at expense of his own so we wouldn’t end up working in a pizza shop seven days a week 16 hours a day (at its peak) only to sleep four hours and do it all over again. He made sure we went to school so we would be able to go home at 6 o’clock and spend time with our kids so they wouldn’t grow to resent us for spending time with strangers instead of them and would do well in school because we would be able to help them with their homework.
Despite any of his later hardships he and my mother succeeded overall and the best we can do is try to learn from their mistakes.
Lastly, I would like to thank the friends and family that helped us obtain Zorro’s and the customers whose loyalty has sustained us through the last 34 years. It’s been a pleasure.
Tony is survived by his wife Anna, sons Jerry and Lukas, grandson Leandros and his unborn brother.
In memory of Eleftherios Siliverdis
January 6, 1948 – January 5, 2017
Tony and his wife Anna and their immediate family ran the business as their own from what I understood since 1987. I remember him telling me that he worked for the previous owner Terry before he bought the business.
Prior to Zorro’s, Tony was in the military and navy in Greece and was a merchant mariner and when he came to Canada he worked at various restaurants as a helper and made very little money. He borrowed some money from his sister in Greece to help fund his new venture. is family struggled to put food on the table.
His son Jerry always jokingly complained that Tony never named a pizza after him. Actually, his son convinced his father after a few years to change one pizza’s name from Terry’s Special to Jerry’s Special but Tony always denied it.
Tony’s remark was, “Why would I name a pizza after you?”—and then we would all laugh.
I had ordered pizzas from Zorro’s before Tony owned it. Tony and Anna were always busy and I enjoyed talking to both of them as I waited for my pizza to be made. Anna was always the quiet one and would make the pizza if Tony was out delivering or needed a break or just wanted to talk to you about everything and nothing.
Tony would always greet me jovially, “How was your day?” and then we would talk about each other’s day and events in our life for about 10 minutes while he was preparing other customers orders until he was ready to take my order.
He already knew what you would probably order and if you phoned in he knew your house address.
He always was happy at making a living from making pizzas but finding out about your day was just as important to him.
He said to me that anybody could just pop in and say hello, it was not necessary to buy anything.
Many of his friends his age would drop in around 8 o’clock when business slowed down and shoot the breeze and talk about the day’s events.
He did have a garden at his house where he would grow herbs and tomatoes that were used in making the pizza sauce. He also would make his own dough the night before for the next day and form them into pizza shells.
He enjoyed reading in general and especially about native people in Canada and the U.S. and that is why he had Aboriginal pictures and artifacts on the wall.
When the summer Greek festival was first started, he would take some needed time off.
It was more tiring and lonely when his wife could no longer help him because of a medical illness.
He said that even if he was tired he could still make it to work. He was there till the end. He commented that he would visit his wife in the care home every day before he went to work and bring her food that she liked. Even on his one day off—a Monday—he would still work by shopping or preparing for the upcoming week.
If you asked him for his opinion he would honestly tell you, be it good or bad. If you didn’t like the pizza his temper would also show up. If you wanted to have a lively discussion, talk about the church. As you walked out the door, he would bless you—with the sign of the cross, of course.
It was our family tradition to buy a pizza from him for our birthday parties … or just to enjoy thick pizza.
I watched as neighbouring businesses came and went. I never thought I would see Zorro’s go.
God placed his final order … to go.
─ Danni Favaro
What can I say about Tony and Zorro’s Pizza? A whole lot.
When I was a kid I used to ride my bike down to Zorro’s (at 4453 Boundary), eat garlic bread, drink a coke and play pinball, which later became video games. My family ordered from Zorro’s all the time, but when Tony took over, the whole game changed as suddenly we went from cardboard pizza to the best pizza in Vancouver.
But it wasn’t only the pizza that made Zorro’s it was Tony himself. He had an outgoing personality that was larger than life and beyond old school.
Later in life though I had moved out of the ’hood, I was still faithful at any chance I could get to visit him and eat one of his masterpieces.
I’d tell him about my tours with the Black Halos and as he was once a touring sailor he understood and loved to hear of my adventures. He’d often be reading a book on subjects such as history, religion and politics and would discuss the state of world with a brash yet wise tongue like no other I’ve ever encountered.
I recently attended his memorial service and the turnout was an amazing array of people from all cultures and walks of life, which goes to show how he was more than just a guy making incredible pizza. As Tony was Greek my father always called it Zorbas pizza (which is very fitting with Tony’s personality and wisdom) and before the services I decided to read up on the proper etiquette for a Greek funeral. I read that the proper thing to say is “may your memory be eternal.”
This statement rings true as both he and his incredible culinary art will never be forgotten by me.
I still wish I could hear that voice and order a large Jerry’s Special, hold the mushrooms.
But all I’m left with are some photographs, a menu, a t-shirt I had printed not long before he left and a take-out order full of memories.
─ Billy Hopeless (a Windermere grad – now famous punk rocker)
Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News