Chef Michael Psilaksis and restaurateur Donatella Arpaia give Greek cuisine an elegant makeover.
In New York City, the mention of Greek food conjures up expectations of lamb souvlaki, moussaka and yogurt-based spreads, perhaps consumed in one of the Greek-owned diners that dot the city. Definitely not the haute Greek menu Michael Psilakis had in mind.
Would the concept fly? Attorney-turned-restaurateur Donatella Arpaia encouraged the young Greek-American chef to reach for the "king of Greek" crown. Together, they opened Anthos, a sleek midtown restaurant that melds traditional, "first generation" dishes with contemporary American influences—diver scallops with periwinkle vinaigrette and lamb belly with manouri cheese, for instance.
The gamble paid off. Anthos has not only attracted a following, but helped transform the ho-hum image of Greek food with more exotic-sounding "Aegean cuisine." It's the only Greek restaurant outside Greece to hold a Michelin star. "I'm proud I was able to take this tradition in a direction that hadn't been seen in the mother country," says Psilakis.
Psilakis has been showered with honors from food magazines, while Arpaia makes frequent television appearances as an authority on Italian lifestyle. Both have embarked on cookbook writing and other
They've also embraced the rustic home cooking that inspired Anthos' menu. At their newly reopened restaurant, Kefi, customers can sample Psilakis's takes on classics such as lamb sausage with sheep's milk dumplings—and, yes, souvlaki, moussaka and Greek dips.