A restaurant hopes it has the keys to the door to future success as it marks its 21st birthday.
Kostas Aslanidis, 48, gathered together some of his most loyal diners of Marina View Ristorante, to mark the occasion and chat about their happy recollections of its past - and hopes of what is yet to come.
To some it’s like a home from home, and there are some who came here as children with their parents and now come back as adults.Kostas Aslanidis
The Italian venue opened in the North Dock, near Roker Pier, in 1995 and proved an instant hit with visitors.
Many of those who were first through its door return to this day – with one even penning a poem about its significance in his life, and another making cushions for the waiting area.
Retired marine underwriter Gerry Finn, 82, of South Bents, Whitburn, wrote Happy Hour, a piece inspired by his favourite time to visit.
He said: “I’ve been coming here pretty much since day one – I love it.
“I have my special place to sit from where I can see out over the marina and across the Wear - it’s a view that takes in the river where I used to work, and it’s beautiful.
“Sitting here makes me feel relaxed and happy, I become absorbed in the daily lives of the people I see.
“This restaurant and its people are very special. “I wish Kostas another great 21 years.”
And former infant school teacher Kath Shovlin, 65, from Roker, added: “I’ve been coming here with my husband George from the start and love the fact the food has always been so good and staff so welcoming.
“Kostas is a very special host – he’s warm, friendly and entertaining, and he has a loyal clientele. “We all wish him all the very best for the future.”
German-born Greek Kostas began at the restaurant as a waiter four years after it opened and immediately after finishing university, quickly becoming a firm favourite with staff and diners.
The trained chef progressed to assistant manager and manager, and became owner seven years ago.
He now employs a team 12 full and part-time staff including chef Libero Ciccone, who has worked there over 20 years, and also opened a second restaurant, The Albion At Ryhope Restaurant and Bar, early last year.
Marina Vista Ristorante also played host to Kostas and his wife Lijie Zhang, a former media production student at Sunderland University, as they of hosted their wedding day celebrations there almost five years ago.
He said: “To some it’s like a home from home, and there are some who came here as children with their parents and now come back as adults.
“The first time I came here I loved the place. It’s got great views, the staff and customers are wonderful and the food is excellent.
“You get to know your customers very well, you become friends, and I very much want to thank them for their loyalty.
“This restaurant is here to stay and I’m very much looking forward to the next 21 years.”