One such restaurant is Emilitsa, where I got to go behind the scenes. Emilitsa serves scrumptious upscale Greek comfort food. The restaurant was opened about five years ago by two brothers, John and Chef Demos Regas, whose parents owned a restaurant in Minnesota. After years of pursuing other careers, the brothers Regas decided they could no longer resist the pull of serving Greek cuisine after being disappointed with the Greek eateries they encountered in New England. However, they did something different with their restaurant in Portland. The brothers decided to craft their menu around the recipes of their mother Emilitsa with artful preparation and the best possible ingredients. Continuing the familial culinary legacy is Chef Regas's son Niko, who has come back to New England to cook in his father's kitchen after years of culinary training and working in upscale restaurants around the country. Chef Demos Regas's face beams with pride when he talks about his son.
Now, if you have read this blog before, you know how much I LOVE small plates, which is why I LOVE going to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern eateries where the culture is all about enjoying lots of different dishes before moving on to the entree. Greek cuisine is no exception. We started out with one of my favorite Greek mezethes, Melitzanosalata, or smoked eggplant dip. I live in an apartment and do not have access to a grill and was very appreciative to learn Chef Regas's tip for roasting whole eggplant over a stovetop flame (hint: this baking tool makes roasting vegetables over the flame a far less messy experience).
He made sure to serve the melitzanosalata with some delicious crusty bread from a bakery down the street. Another concept Chef Regas introduced to me on my visit was the idea of “Philoxenia.” This Greek word encapsulates the Greek notion of hospitality. It goes back to the small town way of life where no one is a stranger for long, for if you pass by someone's home, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, you will be invited in to sit around a table and partake in the many dishes that your host will be serving. Now that is my idea of hospitality.