In Greece, eating is an art and a sacred time for family and friends. Even more than the food, it’s the Greek spirit, love of family and gathering around the table for long lunches and dinners.
A meal often begins with a handful of marinated Kalamata olives and ends with fresh fruit or sweets drenched in honey, with Ouzo all around.
Jefferson City is home to to a group of families that came here from Katerini and share some of their native dishes.
After a day at the beach or just meeting friends at a local taverna, it’s common in Greece to order a spread of meze or mezze mezethes (meh-ZEH-thes), what we call appetizers or hors d’oeuvres usually served with an aperitif. It could be at the start of the meal or the meal itself, an integral part of a social gathering for family and friends like our version of happy hour. This tradition continues at Arris’ Bistro with an array of delicious appetizers that pair well with shots of Ouzo.
Owned by Olga and George Pardalos, the restaurant opened in March of 2009, originally as a market that also served food.
“We kept expanding the menu and took out the market and added a bar,” Olga said. “Ever year we did something different.”
From the island of Katerini, all of her siblings and parents live there and she makes yearly visits.
“After the beach, we eat,” said Olga.
There is no ocean view, but sitting in the lounge at Arris’ Bistro felt like our own oasis in Jefferson City.
One of the first Greek-style pizza places in mid-Missouri, Arris’ has gone on to become a Jefferson City landmark and a family tradition. Many people have been going to Arris since they were kids and have many memories of dining there with their families. Known for cutting pieces in squares, the thin crust pizza was a major hit. In recent years, Arris’ has expanded to other locations, including Columbia, Osage Beach, Fulton, Springfield and Lenexa, Kansas.
Johnny Pardalos opened his namesake restaurant in 1981, but he’s lived in Jefferson City since May of 1966. He grew up in Katerini, a classmate and neighbor of Irene Tergin, co-founder with her husband, Jim, of Carrie’s Hallmark. Johnny’s sister, Venus, is married to Alex of Alexandro’s.
While Johnny’s has a popular lunch buffet, he also serves a variety of Greek dishes that appeal to a Midwestern crowd. Sitting around the table with Johnny and his son, George, eating and talking felt a bit like it must be in Greece.
Owned by Alex and Venus Mastrogiannis, Alexandro’s opened in 1991 as a fine dining, continental-style restaurant. Alex arrived in the states in 1974 from Katerini, a city in northern Greece. He worked at Arris’ and then was a co-owner of Johnny’s. His wife, Venus, is Johnny Pardalos’ sister.
In 1991, he and his wife, Venus, opened a fine dining restaurant with a continental menu but included several Greek items, including their homemade mousakka.
Alex comes in and makes large batches and Venus comes in to make the sauce. Their sons, George and Ted, both work in the restaurant.