There’s been no lack of new Mediterranean eating places in Chicago currently, boasting genuine Mediterranean cuisine produced from genuine Mediterranean components prepared by authentic Mediterranean chefs. But Nisos, opening Friday, July 8, on Randolph Cafe Row, will stand out, says its owner Brad Parker, on the strength of its chef, Avgaria Stapaki.
Parker and Stapaki 1st fulfilled six years in the past. Parker, who owns Parker Hospitality, best identified for the Hampton Social mini-chain, was lounging on the seaside on the Greek island of Mykonos at the conclusion of a three-week trip all-around the Mediterranean when a beach front attendant urged him to stop by Principote, exactly where Stapaki was the chef. It was an huge cafe, equipped to seat 1,500 people today, but the food Parker ate did not taste like the close products of a extended assembly line. It tasted like it had been organized primarily for him.
“How can you perhaps generate that excellent of foods on that scale?” Parker suggests now. “My mind was blown. In the restaurant market, you have wonderful chefs who cook dinner wonderful meals, but accomplishing it at that volume is a full other ballgame.”
Stapaki, who was amazed by Chicago’s culinary name, agreed to come work for Parker and support him establish a cafe that they equally explain as a modern day, fine-eating get on regular Mediterranean delicacies. But it took various years in advance of she was ready to resource elements to her satisfaction. That didn’t consist of just the fish that types the backbone of Nisos’s menu, but also grains, herbs, olive oil, cheeses, bottarga, and honey. Stapaki estimates that she’s been in a position to import 60 per cent of her components, which include shipments of refreshing fish from Greece two or a few times a 7 days.
She’s particularly very pleased of her scorpion fish, sea bass, and grouper, some of which have almost never been seen in the United States. “The Mediterranean is the most salty sea in the entire world,” she states. “So the fish on its have is quite tasty without the need of including salts or oils. What we bring in nowadays from Greece is extremely rare also in my nation. My importer received all the fish only for us. Even Greeks simply cannot get it.”
To enhance the freshness of its fish, the whole cafe has been built to make buyers come to feel like they’ve walked as a result of a door in the West Loop and in some way finished up on a Greek island the identify “Nisos,” in fact, suggests “island” in Greek. Diners can opt for from a checklist of selections on the each day “fish display” and then specify how they’d like it organized, just like they may well in a taverna equipped by neighborhood fishermen.
Stapaki recruited a buddy, Spiros Anagnostou of the Athens cocktail bar 7 Jokers to style the bar menu. Each and every of the cocktails is named soon after an incident in Homer’s Odyssey, an additional epic journey all around the Mediterranean.
The place, which was formerly occupied by Lousy Hunter, Heisler Hospitality’s veggie-focused cafe that closed for excellent in 2020, is not as substantial as Principote: the key eating place and bar seat a mere 170 individuals (a personal dining place can in good shape one more 40). It’s been produced with comparable stones and plaster made use of in Greece, and, fitting with the island topic, all the tables are circular, like small islands.
Nisos will not be an island unto alone for pretty extended, however: Parker and Stapaki are already scheduling a second and third site.
But though she’s now mounted in the kitchen of a significant metropolis restaurant considerably from household, cooking is even now a very private endeavor for Stapaki. Her mom, Paraskevi, died throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and Stapaki couldn’t travel back again to Greece to see her. “This restaurant is for her,” she states. “This opening was about her.”