Demetrios 'Big Nick' Imirziades, better known as the founder, longtime owner and namesake of iconic Upper West Side mainstay Big Nick's Burger and Pizza Joint, died on Wednesday in Greece. He was 77.
Imirziades, who emigrated to NYC from his native Greece, opened the original Big Nick's on Broadway between 76th and 77th streets in 1962. He built and operated several other UWS restaurants afterwards, including Big Nick's Pizza Joint Too on the corner of Columbus and 71st Street (that location, which was sold in 1987, is still open under different management), Niko's Mediterranean Grill, and over 10 other restaurants at different times.
When the original Big Nick's closed down in 2013, after enduring a massive $200,000-a-year rent hike, there were many farewell pieces written about the impact of the UWS spot. Filmmaker Dave Mack was on hand for its final night in business, and you can watch a video of customers saying goodbye to it and to Imirziades below.
"Nick loved the Upper West Side," his wife Sheri Kern-Imirziades told Gothamist. "He lived there, worked there, invested there and donated to various organizations. He started there when the area was known as 'Needle Park,' and the Burger Joint on Broadway was a location for the movie, Midnight Cowboy. It pleased him that he served two and three generations of many families."
She added, "He was rather tough as a young man. Because the neighborhood was also tough, he got into his share of street fights while trying to keep the sidewalk outside the restaurant safe and clean. In fact, it happened often enough that several police officers from those days invited him to their 30th reunion! That is why I like to say that Nick started the improvement of the West Side by personally cleaning up his block—and I am not talking about litter."