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Ithaka Greek Restaurant – A new twist on an old favourite – By Heather Boulding

There are some types of food that I just crave.

Often, it’s Greek food. When I traveled through Greece a few years ago my humble goals were to explore ancient ruins and eat good food – two things that weren’t hard to come by. My friend Kayley and I would wander winding alleys, finding random small restaurants that were low on looks, but high on quality food.

Stepping into Ithaka Greek Restaurant (formerly Passero’s on the corner of Yates St and Cook St in Victoria), I loved the modern, uncluttered, bright and undeniable Greek feel. There was a family with several children laughing and having lunch together and a couple on a date. It was comfortable and welcoming.

Is this pretentious, pricey, small-portioned food? No. Is it large portions with varying degrees of quality and unseasoned taste? Definitely not. It’s old-fashioned, homemade food straight from the matriarch of the family, Maria, who grew up learning to cook from her mother. These are recipes that are handed down through generations and perfected over years. No previously frozen and half cooked chicken souvlaki here. Almost everything is made from scratch, including their delicious hummus.

While Maria cooks, her sons, Dimitri and Andreas, manage the restaurant. It’s a family business and they take it seriously. This isn’t a family unseasoned in the restaurant business. They’ve done it before…and done it well…in Kenora, Ontario. Now they are starting again in a new city.

Dimitri, who is obviously proud to be a part of Victoria’s close-knit Greek community, excitedly shows me the specially imported Greek wines. You won’t be able to find these in the average liquor store. “You haven’t had some Greek food like this.” He says, “Our goal is to offer something a little different and to give a reputable, ethnic dining experience.” His brother Andreas, echoes that sentiment, “We honestly and sincerely care about this restaurant. We want our customers to feel comfortable, a place where you can leave the rushed, packed pace behind and spend time with family.”

After sampling a variety of their dishes, from the best kalamari I’ve had outside of Greece, to souvlaki and saganaki (a flaming goat cheese dish), and finally Maria’s homemade mocha almond ice cream, I had to agree with Dimitri and Andreas, it was simply irresistible. I can’t wait to go back.

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Heather Boulding

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