Durham’s Spartacus restaurant to close June 26

The owners of Durham’s Spartacus restaurant, which has been open for 23 years, have announced it will close June 26.

On Facebook, the owners wrote: “We are truly grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know our beloved and loyal customers and share our love of food. We have raised our families alongside yours and will forever cherish the memories we have made together.”

In a 2010 review, here is how longtime News & Observer restaurant critic Greg Cox described Spartacus after a recent renovation:

On the wall just inside the entrance to Spartacus is a collection of sepia-toned photographs, most of them portraits of a family that for three generations has been in the restaurant business. Nondas Kalfas, who opened Spartacus with partner John Drury in 1993, is the grandson of Vassilios Makros, who opened a cafeteria in Winston-Salem upon returning home from World War II.

One of the portraits, taken in the late 1940s, judging by her clothes and hairstyle, is of a young woman. If you happen to be dining at Spartacus on a Friday or Saturday night, you might find yourself doing a double take when you see that same face - 60 years older but still strikingly beautiful - greeting you at the host stand.

She is Helen Vurnakes, and though she is not, technically speaking, a member of the family, everyone calls her Mama. She has worked at Spartacus since its opening, and though you wouldn't know it from her Southern accent, she comes from a family of Greek restaurateurs herself.

Besides providing a warm and gracious welcome, Vurnakes is the essence of what Spartacus is: steeped in tradition while eagerly embracing new people and new ideas.

If you want to get there before it closes, the restaurant is at 4139 Durham Chapel Hill Blvd, Durham.

Info: 919-489-2848,

Weigl: 919-829-4848;

Twitter: @andreaweigl