DECATUR, Ga. - If you ever met Asiemoula Papadopoulos, you remember it.
Maybe not her name, as she was more commonly referred to as Mama P, but her smile, her countenance, and her zest for life were all unforgettable.
The matriarch of the Papadopoulous family and the founder of Athens Pizza in Decatur passed away on July 19th at the age of 81, while visiting her beloved ancestral home of Greece. Her death occurred one week to the day before her popular restaurant celebrated its 40th anniversary in Atlanta.
From fleeing Joseph Stalin’s Communist regime in Russia as a young child in 1939, to growing up in Greece and marrying her late husband John, to coming to America in 1963 with two young sons and only $300, and not even knowing how to speak English, Mama P is definitely a survivor. To those who knew her, she was much more than that, she was also a thriver.
She and John founded the original Athens Pizza in Massachusetts in 1966. Eventually, they saw another opportunity and opened the first Atlanta restaurant on July 26, 1977, and the rest as they say, is history.
To describe her as a pillar in Atlanta’s thriving Greek community would be an injustice. She is more like the foundation. Her funeral will take place at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation on Clairmont Road, the site of the annual Atlanta Greek Festival. The show will go on this fall, but it will certainly be different without Mama P.
On a personal note, as a frequent visitor to Athens Pizza, the site of Mama P sitting in that front booth with that huge smile and warm greeting, just made everything feel alright. According to her son Sandy, that booth will remain empty as a tribute his mother. While I am sad today that I will never be able to experience that again, at the same time I am happy that I had the privilege to get to know this incredible woman. I am a better person for having crossed paths with her.
For more information about Athens Pizza including the menu, the hours of operation, and the history, go to their website https://athenspizzaatlanta.com/. And to share your favorite Mama P story or read memories that others have shared, go to their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AthensPizzaAtlanta/.