Phantom Gourmet: Mediterranean Food At Ithaki In Ipswich

Updated: Sep 24

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."