32 May/June 2014 | BethesdaMagazine.com
“We talked about this for a good year
or two,” Ted says. “Why don’t we open a
restaurant that serves little mezze, small
plates, like they do in Greece? All the
restaurants in this area serve these big
plates; we’d never seen that in Greece.
What country did they come from? Why
can’t it be different?”
In another way they didn’t want to
be different at all. The secret sauce in
Greek cooking is not hollandaise but
homeyness. The mood is as important
as the menu. As the guys like to say,
“Food is culture.”
Since I lived in Greece for almost four
years, I know what they’re talking about.
Their model is the Greek “taverna,” an
informal neighborhood place rooted in
family and community.
In those tavernas that I knew and
loved, one relative would supply the
olive oil from his home village, another
would bring the wine from his wife’s
brother’s vineyard. Cousins would serve
the food and sweep the floors. A grandmother, or yaya, would bake the baklava
and control the cash register. And when
you walked through the door, you were
greeted by name.
The friends loved that tradition as
well, and wanted to re-create it in America. But to their immigrant parents, their
idea smacked of the Old World, not the
New. The elders wanted their children
stepping forward, not back.
“They helped pay for college and I had
an accounting degree,” Ike says. “They
were like, ‘You can work in a 9-to- 5 job.
You can get your health insurance paid
for. What are you doing?’ ”
When the older generation first came
to America, they washed dishes and
waited tables. Eventually they owned
construction companies and restau-
rants, but they always worked with their
hands. Ike’s father cleaned bathrooms in
his taco joint until his son was in college.
Their children were supposed to do
better. To be professionals. That was the
immigrant dream. “They were just disappointed that we didn’t do something
beyond the restaurant business,” Ted says.
Not only that, “they thought we were
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