Ithaka Greek Restaurant




Andreas, entertaining us all

roast lamb

roast lamb – a killer dish

Those of us long in the tooth enough to remember the eighties (and, yes, I know we are dating ourselves just by using the expression “long in the tooth”) can probably recall that Greek cuisine was the “it” food of the shoulder pad and mullet era.   People across North America would line up patiently at their local Greek restaurant so they could tuck in to Mediterranean specialties such as roast lamb, souvlaki, spanakopita or creamy, rich Moussaka.

We were fretting about the possible decline in popularity of Greek cuisine, however, judging by a recent visit to the bustling Ithaka Restaurant, it seems our fears were unfounded. Greek cooking is alive and well and it has found its apotheosis in Ithaka Restaurant. Ithaka is a family owned eatery located on the corner of Cook and Yates. The space has been revamped to look like a casual Greek cantina. Gone are the plastic plants and tired décor of its predecessor, Passero’s. It is an unassuming space, you will find nothing unduly fancy here in the way of decor, but that is precisely why it is charming. And the professionalism of the staff is evident the moment you walk in the door.

As we entered the restaurant, the owner’s son warmly greeted us. The restaurant was full to capacity. A bevy of servers deftly wended their way through the line-ups, delivering sizzling platters of flaming cheese to existing customers.  We salivated over the aromas. As we waited for a table to come available, we were provided a chair and a glass of wine. I was touched by the extension of hospitality given the degree of busyness in the restaurant. They were going flat out on a Friday night and yet, they immediately attended to our comfort without ever missing a beat.

Once we were ensconced at our table, we ordered Moussaka and roast lamb. We had to forgo appetizers as the main courses come complete with a starter of soup or Greek salad and bread. We opted to begin with Avgolemono, a silky chicken broth spiked with lemon and brimming with orzo pasta. The soup was a revelation, sustaining yet light and lemony, and the portion was just enough to prime us for the main event. As we waited for our meal, the owner’s son, Andreas, performed a Greek dance and played music on the patio. This bit of theatricality, which might have seemed phony in another instance, was rather touching, as he seemed a little reticent. Had we a little ouzo in our bellies, we would have been sorely tempted to join in the festivities ourselves.

Our entrees arrived shortly after. The roast lamb was juicy and fork tender, benefiting from a slow braise. The accompanying lemony Greek roast potatoes were cooked to perfection with meltingly soft interiors and golden brown crust. Entrees also came with rice pilaf and vegetables. While the tender crisp steamed vegetables nicely offset the richness of the meat, I could have done with just one starch, but if one cannot eat everything one could always take the leftovers home for a sumptuous lunch. Being fed generously and well is not something to start whining about. The Moussaka (a sort of Greek shepherd’s pie with layers of ground beef, zucchini, potato and eggplant) was rich and creamy topped with a thick carapace of nutmeg flecked béchamel sauce.

It is hard to imagine having room for dessert after such a repast, but the staff at H.A. wants you to know we work hard on your behalf. It is a difficult job eating all this fine food, but dog gone it if we aren’t up for the job. We loosened our belts and, at the server’s recommendation, opted to share the dessert amusingly named “Ekmek”. The Ekmek is an Athenian dessert comprised of layers of flaky pastry soaked in syrup topped with a layer of custard and flaked almonds. The vanilla custard was ethereally light, and the flaked almonds added a pleasing crunch. As with the entrees, the dessert was a formidable size and boasted formidable flavours to match.

As of this writing, we have only made one visit to Ithaka, but we felt the meal was impressive enough to merit a mention.  While current foodie crazes emphasize the arty and fanciness of dishes (think paint splotches on your plate and foraged food), it is nice to be reminded that simple food, meticulously prepared is the stuff that invariably keeps customers coming back for more. Speaking of coming back, we should mention that Ithaka takes reservations, and it is probably a good idea to phone ahead. Our server informed us that the restaurant is full to capacity most evenings. After sampling the food, we could easily see why. We cannot wait to return to try the souvlaki and the dramatically presented saganaki flambé.

Bon appétit and Opa, dear readers! If you head to Ithaka, do not hesitate to write and let us know what you think. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Until next time, pretty ponies!

xoxo, Monty and the gang

MONTY’S PICKS: roast lamb, moussaka, Ekmek

IMBIBE: Greek white wine or ouzo


Mama Maria oversees the kitchen with spectacular results.

Ithaka Greek Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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