LYON, France — It would be surprising indeed if there were no Armenian restaurants in the French city of Lyon that is known as the gastronomic capital of the world, especially because there is a large Armenian community in the area. In fact, there is one such well-established eatery in Lyon’s affluent sixth district (arrondissement), named Oncle Dik (Uncle Dik). While not in the busiest and most frequented touristic zones, it is located close to the center of the city (4, rue Bossuet) in what the French like to call a bourgeois neighborhood.
It is a family-run restaurant named after the owner, Didier Dikran Nerguisian. Dikran, in turn, was named after his paternal grandfather, whose large black-and-white picture pulling a handcart in the 1930s hangs on the wall of the restaurant. This is the first of many clear indications that Dikran is strongly connected to his roots. On the restaurant website, oncledik.com/, he writes that the photo “is a tribute to all these expatriate survivors who, through their hard work, succeeded for themselves and for their future generations in successfully integrating, without denying or forgetting their origins.” He continues that he dedicates this restaurant to their memory in their honor.
The eponymous Dikran was born in Marash and came to Lyon via Aleppo and Beirut due to the Armenian Genocide. His wife was also from Marash. After some 10-15 years of hard manual labor, he earned enough money to buy a grocery store in an Armenian quarter of Lyon. He had four sons. Garabed, the father of restauranteur Dikran, became a car mechanic with his own garage, where his son Dikran worked for 20 years after obtaining his high school baccalaureate degree. After Garabed retired, his son worked briefly in the telephone business before deciding to open his own restaurant in 2006.
Dikran recalled that there was no Armenian restaurant operating at that time in Lyon. Previously, there was an Armenian eatery in Lyon called Karnig Restaurant but it closed two years prior to the opening of Oncle Dik, while a short-lived restaurant called Tamar operated in the period roughly 1978 to 1980.
Two years after Dikran opened Oncle Dik, his wife, Patricia Oustig Nerguisian, who had her own women’s and children’s clothing store, joined her husband to work in the restaurant, and after one more year, their elder son Adrien Sevag Vartan Nerguisian came on board. Finally, the youngest son, Jeremy Vahig Garabed Nerguisian, joined the rest of the family last year. Interestingly, each member of the family has a French first name combined with Armenian middle names which primarily are of ancestors.
The restaurant, in addition to Italian-style pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven, offers a variety of Armenian and Middle Eastern specialties, including lahmajun, chi keufte, lamb kebab, pilaf, and mezzes, as well as food prepared in French and international fashions like hamburgers, cod, and pastas.