AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF) – When it comes to innovation…locals can experience it at Luigi’s in downtown Augusta.

“We actually introduced pizza to Augusta back when my great grandfather put it on the menu. It was on his pizza pie. People didn’t know what it was so they would order it for dessert,” she explains.

In 1949, Luigi’s was started by Penelope Ballas-Stewart’s great grandfather.

It now reigns as the oldest restaurant in Augusta.

“He always loved food and got into catering a little bit when he moved down here. He came from Greece into Massachusetts and then found his way down in the South and landed in Augusta.”

Over the years, Luigi’s has become a staple for dining by locals and visitors like Masters golf legends and players.

After nearly 75 years, ownership has been handed down to Penelope Ballas-

You could say she was built for the job.

“It’s been my only job. It’s the only place I’ve ever worked. I just always loved the business. Started when I was little bussing tables along with my sisters then waiting tables and then took on a management position.”

She says her passion for people and the business led to this purpose.

“I love cooking. I love being in the kitchen. I love talking to customers and the customer service side. I love tending bar. There really is just not an area that I don’t have a passion for.”

But, her ownership didn’t come without some reservation.. especially from the previous owner.. who happens to be her father.

“I think one of the things my dad struggled with was a lot of the heavy lifting and things like that he thought. He’s and old typical Greek man who thought that a woman couldn’t do a lot of the things that he did. He even says that I proved him wrong.”

Besides, she comes from a line of strong women who cooked up their own legacy in the local Greek community.

“My mother was one of the first chairmen for the Greek festival. So, definitely I come from a long line of strong Greek women because before her my grandmother was instrumental in the pastries at the greek church.”

She and her family’s innovations can serve as an inspiration for other women.

“Especially today there’s so much opportunity for a woman to do anything, anything she wants. For sure.”

That’s why Penelope Ballas-Stewart is one of our Women To Watch.

She has maintained the structural integrity of the restaurant.

In fact, the booths are the originals from 1949.

Penelope says her goal was to not change anything except for one area.

She added new wines!