An Albanian-born business owner said he has realized his dream after purchasing the Olympic Diner, 5454 Roberts Road in Columbus, just south of Hilliard.
"It's been my dream to have my own restaurant," said Orion Ali, 40, a Grove City resident who bought the business in June 2019.
He recently remodeled the interior and extended the restaurant's hours of operation on weekdays to include dinner in addition to breakfast and lunch.
The diner on the northwest corner of Hilliard-Rome and Roberts roads was known as the Chef's House until 2017, and it was open for only breakfast and lunch.
The Chef's House operated in that location for several years. According to records on the Franklin County Auditor's Office website, the multitenant building in which the restaurant has leased space over the years was constructed in 1988.
Ali said he came to the United States at age 17 and moved to central Ohio in 2010.
"I worked at several restaurants before (Jim Velio) hired me to work at (Short North) Goody Boy," he said, referring to the diner in Columbus' Short North district that formerly was known as Michael's Goody Boy Diner.
Velio owns Otie's Tavern & Grill in Hilliard and several other restaurants in central Ohio.
Through relationships in the restaurant industry, Ali said, he brokered the purchase of the Olympic Diner from the previous owner who had renamed it when he purchased it in 2017.
"Almost right away, customers began asking if I would open for dinner," he said.
But it took a few months to plan for the extended hours, he said.
"I'm here about 14 hours a day, but it's to make everyone happy," said Ali, whose wife, Marcella, often is at his side, taking table reservations, seating customers and rearranging tables, when necessary.
Greeting customers is a priority, Ali said.
"Every restaurant can make you eggs," he said. "It's how you treat the customer that is important."
Customers are seated on hardwood floors, which replaced the carpet that was removed as part of the interior improvements.
"I added some artwork, too," Ali said. "I want to have good atmosphere and good food."
Ali prepares many of the menu items, including his creation, the Olympic Burger. He described it as a hamburger with an egg, bacon and sausage gravy.
For customers with an appetite for dessert, the Olympic Diner has partnered with Jenny's Tasty Treats.
Jennifer Torquato, 55, has an in-home baking license and sells her desserts at seven central Ohio locations, including the Olympic Diner. Torquato's in-home kitchen also is in Columbus and just outside Hilliard.
After being laid off from a corporate job, Torquato said, she made cookies for extra income and sold 208 dozens at Christmastime in 2014.
"I've got a new job but I kept this going," said Torquato, who identifies her best-selling item as white-chocolate-covered hulless popcorn.
The Olympic Diner is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
For now, Ali said, he does not plan to open for dinner on the weekends to spend time with his family, including his wife and their children, two sons ages 9 and 3.
For more information about the Olympic Diner restaurant, go to theolympicdiner.com.