Phantom Gourmet: Mediterranean Food At Ithaki In Ipswich

Updated: 2 days ago

Peabody* - The more passionate the chef, the better the food will be, and there's a chef at a North Shore Mediterranean restaurant, proving just that point.


Petros Markopoulos is passionate, he's charismatic, and some even say he's a bit crazy


"Petros the owner is crazy, passionate, loving, generous, inspirational. He's just a really great guy," described Aleana Todisco, General Manager of Ithaki in Ipswich. "He's not the easiest person to work with. He knows that, but the end product is really great no matter how crazy he is during the entire process. "


"Everything has his flare, his expression, his excitement, his love of food and he really does love food."


That expression all happens in Ithaki's semi-open kitchen, which Elena said, is quite the spectacle.


"It's never a quiet moment in the kitchen. There's always chaos. There's always activity. It's always a scene. It's exciting. It's not negative. It's just the way we work here and it's different. I think it's different than any other restaurant."


The best way for customers to get in on all that action, is by planting themselves at Ithaki's bar.


"Those are the best seats in the house. They're filled with regulars who are expecting what is to come of Petros on the line on a busy Saturday night. Then you have the people who have never sat there before who are shocked by what they're seeing, but it's like a show," said Eleana.


Petros has even been known to come out from behind the line just to make sure everything has been served to his high standard.


"He's always saying, 'Hi, how are you? How's the food?' Even if he knows them or not. He really wants to know what people think about his food. He cares."


Since Petros is the self-proclaimed "king of lamb", customers should always start with some of Ithaki's mouthwatering lamb meatballs served on a bed of tzatziki. Or try the tender lamb tips, served on a bed of rice. If that isn't enough, there's the larger-than-life braised lamb shank served on a bed of orzo.


"The lamb shank is super tender. When you take your fork to it, it just melts off the bone," Eleana described. "It's humongous. It's like 18 ounces, 20 ounces and it's on the bone. A lot of people are overwhelmed by the size of it. We wrap a lot of it up to go."


Another dish that causes quite the stir in the dining room is the flaming Cheese Saganaki. The pan-fried cheese is doused in alcohol, set on fire tableside, and should probably come with a warning.

Flaming Cheese Saganaki at Ithaki (Image: Phantom Gourmet)


"Sometimes we have to tell people, 'Don't put it in your mouth when it's on fire,' because that's not good," Eleana said. "You'll see people - it's on their fork and it's on fire."


Greek specialties at Ithaki include the fresh Horiathiki Salad served with big chunks of feta and ultra-fresh veggies, and a Mezze Platter featuring housemade hummus, feta cheese spread, tarmasalata and tzatziki. Nothing is more comforting than a big crock of Moussaka.


"It's like a Greek lasagna. It's layers of potatoes, zucchini, eggplant and then the kima which is the Greek meat sauce. It is the ultimate Greek comfort food."


Moussaka at Ithaki (Image: Phantom Gourmet)


For the ultimate Greek dessert, try Ithaki's seasonal Pumpkin Baklava. The dish is so near and dear to Eleana's heart that she usually doesn't let customers leave without trying it.


"I tell people to come here just for that. I am not good at selling dessert. I get nervous trying to push stuff on people, but I make people get the pumpkin baklava and they always love it. And we make the cinnamon ice cream and I just take it with my hand and dip it in the ice cream and just eat it. That's what I could do all day."


Pumpkin Baklava at Ithaki (Image: Phantom Guormet)


While she'd rather be eating baklava all day, Eleana is usually busy making sure Petros has whatever he needs for that evening's service.


"He's fantastic. The passion he has for his food is unbelievable. He's just a good guy. You know, you ask anyone regardless of how crazy he gets, he's a good guy and we all know that and we have a crazy amount of respect for him."


You can find Ithaki at 1A Newbury St in Peabody and online at ithakicuisine.com.


MARCH 17, 2015 / 5:54 AM / CBS BOSTON

CLICK HERE to access this article on CBS news website where it was originally published


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