Eight-year-in-a-row Best of the City winner Ithaka Greek Restaurant is a culmination of the Greek community in Victoria.
Dimitri Adamopoulos, who co-runs the restaurant with wife Edith Jean and help from family, said that thanks to family connections, “a lot of the decor is actually [gifted] from other restaurants that are no longer around.”
The Adamopoulos family have long ties to the Victoria Greek community, and Ithaka is now one of the only family-run Greek restaurants left in the city.
“There was a lot of really serious Greek restaurants, like Millos, Periklis later on, San Remo,” said Adamopoulos. “My mom would work for a lot of them, and I would sit back and watch them do their thing … Now what’s happened when we opened at the old location, and finally had our own Greek restaurant here, is that just a lot of the Greek restaurants weren’t around.”
Ithaka’s current location at 716 Burdett Ave. was home to Greek cuisine for decades, including as the restaurant Millos. Current landlord and family friend, George Mavrikos (co-owner of Romeo’s), started the restaurant and prioritized keeping the building Greek with new leasers. He also commissioned the murals in the late ’70s – which remain today – of folk dancers, and of his birth island in Greece.
|Ithaka ranks five stars on Tripadvisor for service, and Dimitri Adamopoulos attributes that to their staff, who he said are "like family". (Samantha Duerksen)|
Adamopoulos remembers the grandeur of being in the building as a child.
“When I first walked into this restaurant as an eight- or nine-year-old, I was like, ‘wow.’ Later in 1990, I was a busboy here, so everything came full circle.”
Initially when Adamopoulos moved back to Victoria in 2013 from Kenora, Ont., he and his parents Tommy, Maria and brother Andreas opened Ithaka at Cook and Yates. It was named after the Greek island, which is also home to hero Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey. Essentially, to the Greeks, it gives the meaning “life is about the journey, not the destination.”
Moving to the new, larger location on Burdett after being renovicted three and a half years ago was “the largest gamble I guess I would have ever done in my life,” said Adamopoulos. They went from 65 seats to 160 and their kitchen expanded almost ten-fold. Adamopoulos said success at the old location made the expansion necessary.
“I think in life if you don’t go through some challenges or difficult moments and try to push through to get to the other side, then the good things don’t happen,” said Adamopoulos.
“There are some Greek restaurants left in Victoria, but not all are Greek family owned and operated so I just looked at it as a tremendous opportunity.”
Prior to taking over, the building was unused for two years and had red walls. The Adamopoulos’ made their own mark on the building with a five-month renovation.
Today, it once again has white-washed walls, bright blue accents, trinkets from their trips to Greece, photos of Greek Venetian castles in Maria’s hometown, a new mural of the sea and a commissioned street sign of Adamopoulos’ father’s childhood street.
“I think my wife did a fantastic job of taking some old and some new and blending it all together,” said Adamopoulos, adding he had the advantage of remembering the way it looked when he was a child.
Even after decades, the building on Burdett continues to celebrate Greek culture and heritage.
“I was proud and continue to be proud to be a Greek Canadian,” Adamopoulos said.