and half the time it was because we were
too drunk to drive home.”
Those days are over. Much has
changed since they wrote orders on Post-
it notes and slept on two chairs pushed
together. The menu for one thing. The
partners now import their own wine,
olive oil and cheese from Greece, but
Dimitri likes to blend traditional ingre-
dients with sharper, stronger flavors.
Take “crazy feta,” a tangy mixture
of a crumbly Greek cheese made from
sheep’s milk, and jalapenos, which aren’t
native to Greece at all. Today, Dimitri
describes his food as “Greek inspired,”
and his approach is really a metaphor for
the whole immigrant experience. Take a
custom from the old country and add a
fresh accent that creates something new.
The partners have also cultivated local
suppliers. Scallops come exclusively from
a father-son team based in New Bedford,
Mass. After Hurricane Sandy wrecked
their boat, scallops were off the menu for
months until the Cava guys could help
the fishermen finance repairs.
They need a lot of scallops these days.
There are now three full-service restaurants and five Cava Mezze Grills providing quicker, cheaper meals. The first grill
was located on Bethesda Avenue in 2011
specifically to commemorate those midday conversations, years ago, that incubated the original idea.
A line of dips and spreads is sold in
Whole Foods Markets as far west as
Ohio, and once the partners install new
equipment that prolongs shelf life without artificial preservatives, their brand
will go national.
The Cava guys know that rapid expansion could blemish that brand. So only
friends and relatives are hired as managers. And then there’s the baklava. Every
piece is still made by Dimitri’s mother.
How’s that for quality control? n
Steve Roberts, who teaches journalism
and politics at George Washington University, was based in Athens for The New
York Times in the mid-’70s. Send ideas
for future columns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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