Today is a special day as my friend, Chef Maria Loi, celebrates the 5th anniversary of her restaurant, Loi Estiatorio, in Midtown Manhattan.
Just steps away from my home and a place that’s been more than a restaurant to me, Loi Estiatorio to most who frequent the place, consider it a local hangout, a place of familiar faces and above all— a place of true, Greek hospitality.
It’s not a restaurant— it’s Maria’s kitchen and like generations of Greek women before her, has made all who have walked into its front door feel like they were home.
For me, personally, it’s also served as an indirect place of healing.
During my six months of chemo, the familiar delivery bag from “Loi Estiatorio” that Maria sent almost daily, provided me with healthy nourishment during a very difficult time when not only my body, but my soul too, needed it the most.
But it wasn’t only the food— it was the lessons that came along with it— a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil every day is Maria’s mantra— and so many other lessons and wisdom that she’s brought with her from past generations.
Many times at Loi Estiatorio, I’d eat a bite of spanakopita or a spoonful of fasolada and it always tasted so familiar.
“This tastes like my yiayia’s,” I’d tell Maria.
“It’s better than your yiayia’s,” she’d fire back.
Maria hasn’t only succeeded in something most people don’t— five years in the most difficult restaurant market in the world— she’s succeeded in creating a restaurant with a heart and soul— an authentically Greek heart and soul, with some of the tastiest and healthiest food you’ll ever find… yes, better than yiayia’s.
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