Classic Greek cuisine with a twist
Avli's patio is scheduled for a renovation that wll extend outdoor dining from March to November. | Jackie Pliossoph~For Sun-Times Media
566 Chestnut St.
Hours: Sun-Thurs. 11 a.m to 10 p.m.
Fri and Sat: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Updated: October 23, 2012 3:00PM
WINNETKA — It’s all Greek to Louie Alexakis. Literally.
The owner of Avli Restaurant, located inside the Laundry Mall on Chestnut Street, has owned a few Greek Restaurants in the past, and was the manager of Greek Islands in Greektown for 11 years.
“I’ve always been around Greek food, and I grew up in the food business,” said Alexakis, whose parents owned hot dog stands for 54 years in the city. “So, being in the restaurant business came natural to me.”
Alexakis enjoys cooking, and thinks of himself as the executive chef, but Avli Restaurant does employ a full-time chef, plus a consulting chef who flies in from Greece twice a year to work on new menu items.
“We try to introduce regional dishes of Greece that people aren’t familiar with,” said Alexakis, “Eating here is not like eating at any other Greek restaurant. We use authentic ingredients and bring in about 70 items from Greece, things as basic as Greek sea salt, honey and Greek herbs and spices.”
Avli, which opened in 2009, is classic Greek food with a twist. There are traditional items on the menu such as saganaki, feta and olives, Greek chicken, and gyros, but Alexakis says the food is superior because of the ingredients used, and because everything on the menu is made fresh.
Then there are the specialty dishes, including a peppers and sausage dish that is popular in central Greece, leek and fennel wrapped in filo dough, and lobster with Greek spaghetti, to name a few.
Tom Nodine, of Kenilworth, is a frequent customer whose favorite dish is salmon wrapped in parchment paper.
“The food here is as good as any Greek food I’ve ever had,” said Nodine. “Everyone in my family has something here they like. Our kids love the lamb burgers.”
“The fish here is really good,” said customer Larry Becker, of Glencoe. “There are no heavy sauces. Things are mostly grilled with a little olive oil, and we like eating that way.”
“The food is all very fresh,” said Becker’s wife, Nicole Williams. “Plus, they have an excellent selection of Greek wine.”
“Everyone talks about the Mediterranean diet and how healthy it is. That study was done at the University of Athens, so Greek food really is healthy food, and that is reflective of our menu,” Alexakis said.
Avli seats about 120, and another 50 on its outdoor patio, a space that’s getting a big renovation, including a retractable canopy and radiant heat on the ground. Alexakis said his goal is to extend the outdoor dining season.
“People love to dine outdoors and we all hate those 55 degree days where if it was just a little warmer we could eat outside,” said Alexakis. “With our new features, we hope to have the patio open every day between March and November.”
Alexakis, who has lived in Winnetka with his family for seven years, said he finds people in Winnetka really appreciate good food and fine dining.
“They eat at wonderful restaurants locally and also when they travel, so we try to meet their expectations by giving them an ethnic experience, but by meeting their service expectations, too.”
“The food is terrific,” said Becker. “I think it’s one of the best places on the North Shore.”