If there’s such a thing as a soap role half the 83 million Germans have seen on TV it was that of restaurant owner Panaiotis Sarikakis, embodied by actor Kostas Papanastasiou.

The iconic restaurant owner was a favourite feature of the weekly series Lindenstrasse (Linden Street), Munich. He played the sometime guitar-strumming host for 11 of its more than 34 years years, from the beginning in 1985 to 1996.

Papanastasiou has died, aged 84, in Berlin, where he used to own a real Greek restaurant that was a favourite haunt of the city’s leftwing scene.

Up to seven million viewers sat week by week in the fictitious “Akropolis Restaurant”. The series broke taboos on German TV with figures like gay Carsten Flöter, Aids-suffering Benno Zimmermann, Lesbian Tanja Schildknecht and stories about unemployment, puberty, marriage and aging crises.The series’ last episode aired in March 2020.

Always a bit enigmatic, sometimes grumbly, the guitar always handy, very proud and serious when serving the ouzo – it didn’t take much imagination that the difference between his role as the Akropolis host and his real-life situation of owning the Terzo Mondo restaurant in Berlin. One of the reasons why Lindenstrasse fans went to the Terzo Mondo, where music events are also held.

Sometimes Sarikakis grabbed an instrument himself so that some called him respectfully “the Zeus of Savigny Square”.

He ran the restaurant for 45 years until his son took over the management in 2018.

The restaurant became the favourite hangout of West Berlin’s Left and with that fitted the impetus of the family series, to whose permanent personnel Papanastasiou belonged for 11 years as well as his humanitarian aid to Georgia.

In 1996 the Lindenstrasse host bid farewell to the “cold and foreigner-hostile Germany” to return to his native Greece. After his departure from the series, things got quieter around the actor, whose curriculum vitae also includes the study of architecture and other roles, including in a musical in a Berlin theatre.

In 2011, Sarikakis performed a concert in Berlin to mark his 55 years of residence in the city. A year later, he was awarded Germany’s highest civilian order, the Bundeverdienstkreuz (Federal Cross of Merit)for his social engagement.

Towards the end of his life, he suffered from dementia.