Kalamata Kitchen, located at 105 N Marion St. in Oak Park, quietly opened for business on December 13th, 2019 and expects to celebrate with a ribbon cutting ceremony later this month.
Transforming a former gift-shop into a fully functional restaurant proved to be far more challenging than expected. The gut-rehab took in excess of a year to complete, but the resulting space is bright and streamlined. A generous bar anchors the dining room, white cloth-covered tables welcome guests, and cheery murals cover the walls.
“Restaurants, like the ones in Chicago’s Greek Town, are a dying breed,” says Kalamata Kitchen owner, Gus Karas, “but we’re excited to bring authentic Greek food to Oak Park.”
Karas and the entire Karahalios family hail from the Kalamata region of Greece. Known for producing their namesake olives, Kalamata is located on southern Peloponnese peninsula and boasts beautiful beaches and a vibrant nightlife. Karas and his family are looking to celebrate Greece’s rich culinary history and bring Kalamata’s traditional dishes to Marion St.
“We are bringing Kalamata to Oak Park,” says Karas proudly, “right down to the olive oil on every table; the oil is from my hometown.”
In addition to having an experienced Greek chef in the kitchen churning out noteworthy lamb chops and grilled calamari, the restaurant boasts genuine maternal over site. Karas’ mother, Christina Karahalios, not only provided some of the recipes for use at Kalamata Kitchen, but also makes sure every dish meets her exacting standards.
“My mom doesn’t play when it comes to her stuffed mushrooms,” says Karas of the appetizer his mother created featuring a mix of crab meat, cream cheese, lemon and spices.
Kalamata Kitchen is hoping to rely on a small and knowledgeable staff to educate the community about authentic Greek dishes like those included on Kalamata Dinner. In addition to traditional favorites like Moussaka and Spanakopita, the Kalamata Dinner features the lesser known Pastichio, or Greek lasagna. The layered casserole is a popular special occasion dish throughout Greece and features a homey mix of pasta, beef and tomatoes spiked with cinnamon and cloves. The entire dish is covered with bechamel sauce before baking to a bubbly golden brown. Pastichio is a favorite among children and Karas considers the dish to be a perfect winter food.
Kalamata Kitchen currently offers lunch, dinner and carry-out and aims to expand their services to include delivery. Karas is also looking forward to offering outdoor seating during the warmer summer months. For now, however, they are focused on growing the business slowly and perfecting every menu item.
“We’re focused on making Kalamata Kitchen’s food great,” says Karas.