There is been no shortage of new Mediterranean places to eat in Chicago recently, boasting genuine Mediterranean cuisine created from reliable Mediterranean components ready by genuine Mediterranean chefs. But Nisos, opening Friday, July 8, on Randolph Cafe Row, will stand out, says its owner Brad Parker, on the power of its chef, Avgaria Stapaki.
Parker and Stapaki very first fulfilled 6 a long time ago. Parker, who owns Parker Hospitality, greatest recognised for the Hampton Social mini-chain, was lounging on the seashore on the Greek island of Mykonos at the stop of a three-7 days journey around the Mediterranean when a seaside attendant urged him to pay a visit to Principote, wherever Stapaki was the chef. It was an monumental cafe, able to seat 1,500 people today, but the meal Parker ate did not taste like the conclusion product or service of a extensive assembly line. It tasted like it had been prepared specially for him.
“How can you maybe create that quality of meals on that scale?” Parker suggests now. “My intellect was blown. In the restaurant industry, you have astounding chefs who cook dinner astounding foods, but undertaking it at that quantity is a entire other ballgame.”
Stapaki, who was impressed by Chicago’s culinary status, agreed to arrive work for Parker and support him make a cafe that they equally describe as a fashionable, fantastic-dining acquire on classic Mediterranean delicacies. But it took various yrs before she was equipped to resource components to her pleasure. That didn’t include just the fish that kinds the spine of Nisos’s menu, but also grains, herbs, olive oil, cheeses, bottarga, and honey. Stapaki estimates that she’s been able to import 60 p.c of her substances, such as shipments of fresh new fish from Greece two or a few moments a 7 days.
She’s specifically very pleased of her scorpion fish, sea bass, and grouper, some of which have rarely been observed in the United States. “The Mediterranean is the most salty sea in the entire world,” she says. “So the fish on its personal is very tasty devoid of adding salts or oils. What we carry in right now from Greece is really rare also in my place. My importer obtained all the fish only for us. Even Greeks are unable to get it.”
To enhance the freshness of its fish, the whole restaurant has been intended to make clients really feel like they’ve walked as a result of a door in the West Loop and someway finished up on a Greek island the identify “Nisos,” in point, signifies “island” in Greek. Diners can decide on from a list of choices on the every day “fish display” and then specify how they’d like it prepared, just like they might in a taverna equipped by local fishermen.
Stapaki recruited a close friend, Spiros Anagnostou of the Athens cocktail bar 7 Jokers to style and design the bar menu. Each of the cocktails is named just after an incident in Homer’s Odyssey, a different epic journey close to the Mediterranean.
The space, which was previously occupied by Terrible Hunter, Heisler Hospitality’s veggie-targeted cafe that shut for good in 2020, is not as large as Principote: the key dining area and bar seat a mere 170 persons (a personal dining area can fit yet another 40). It’s been manufactured with related stones and plaster utilized in Greece, and, fitting with the island theme, all the tables are round, like minor islands.
Nisos will not be an island unto by itself for very long, though: Parker and Stapaki are previously arranging a second and 3rd spot.
But although she’s now put in in the kitchen of a big metropolis cafe much from house, cooking is nevertheless a quite individual endeavor for Stapaki. Her mother, Paraskevi, died in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and Stapaki could not journey back to Greece to see her. “This restaurant is for her,” she states. “This opening was about her.”