Biloxi restaurant will go on after chef loses battle with cancer

There’s a big personality missing at The Sicilian II, but the popular restaurant isn’t going anywhere.

Chris Drake, known by regular customers as Chef Christos, died Sept. 3 after a long battle with cancer. His funeral was Sept. 16. He was 59.

Chris Drake II, his son, said Monday the restaurant will continue to operate in its current location, 1670 Pass Road in Biloxi, near Keesler Air Force Base. The restaurant will celebrates its third anniversary in December.

“We’re going to be here for at least 13 more years,” he said. “We may expand, but we won’t be moving any time soon.”

Its location near the air base helped the restaurant when it first opened.

“When we first opened, the airmen moseying in here is what got us going,” he said. “Then they brought their civilian friends in here, then we got a five-star rating on Yelp and the tourists started finding us.”

From Athens, Greece

The younger Drake said his father was about 15 years old when he came to the United States from Athens, Greece, when his last name was Drakopoulos.

“When he came here, in the 1970s, he didn’t know English right away,” he said. “He taught himself English watching Westerns and Clint Eastwood movies.”

Drake worked at several jobs, including construction, painting, even as a butcher. Cooking was his passion, his son said, and when he settled on opening a restaurant, The Sicilian, in Arab, Alabama, he was able to merge his love of cooking with making a living.

“We were there (in Arab) about nine years,” his son said. “When my dad was diagnosed, we came here and opened the restaurant here.”

Biloxi appealed to him because of the beach.

“He had always been a child of the beach. He always believed in the healing waters of the beach and the salt,” the younger Drake said.

About the space aliens

His obituary stated that Drake “loved food, fishing, the Chicago Cubs and space aliens.”

Say what?

“It started with that show on the History Channel, ‘Ancient Aliens,’” his son said. “He liked sci-fi movies and he would take me to them. He always liked stories about Area 51 and Roswell, New Mexico, too. He always called himself an alien child.”

Loyal, hardworking, unstoppable, passionate and faithful are all words the younger Drake used to describe his father. “And he was genuine and honest,” he said. “You always knew where you stood with my dad. He never held a grudge. And he was straightforward.”

The Sicilian II will keep its current hours, 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, as well as popular offerings such as pizza, lasagna, cheesecake, tiramisu and Italian sausage menu items.

“The lasagna is a 100-year-old recipe from my great-grandmother in Polermo,” he said. “We make our own sausage, too.”

Drake came up with the recipe himself, using trial and error to perfect the blend of meat and spices, his son said.

Tammy Smith: 228-896-2130, @Simmiefran1