- Published: Tuesday, 05 September 2017 12:06
- Written by Romana
Few Hilton Head Island restaurants can claim the history that Barbara and Vassili Maniotis can. They’ve been running It’s Greek To Me on the island since 1997. But their story really begins back in 1979, when the couple fell in love and got married. During their month-long honeymoon in Greece, Vassili’s home country, Barbara learned to cook traditional Greek dishes and mastered Vassili’s family recipes. Many years later, when the couple moved to Hilton Head, they opened It’s Greek To Me, which quickly became one of the most popular in the area.
The restaurant features an authentic Greek menu that makes diners feel as though they are dining in the shadows of the Acropolis or Parthenon. The hand-painted murals and photos of Greek isles surrounded by shimmering blue water that line the walls of the narrow dining room contribute to the Old World feel. A glass case highlights the day’s desserts, and guests are welcomed like old friends by the Maniotis family. The original location, off New Orleans Road, was tucked away amid some trees at the end of a small strip mall, but once visitors discovered it, they kept coming back, often bringing with them their friends and neighbors. A lagoon outside the back patio also was home to a frequent visitor — a large alligator named George.
In 2008, the family moved the restaurant to its current location on Lagoon Road near Coligny Plaza. Murals depicting Mediterranean scenes cover the walls, and Greek statues stand guard outdoors. The outdoor seating area — with its burnt-red umbrellas and white stucco — exudes the feel of a sunny Greek island. It’s the perfect setting to enjoy homemade souvlaki with tzatziki, mousaka, pastitsio, roast lamb, spanakopita and dolmathes. The restaurant’s salads are especially popular with diners who chose to eat outside.
“Our Greek salad is a generous portion with a vinaigrette that enhances all the fresh ingredients,” Barbara said.
Several traditional favorites are served just as they are in Greece. Diners are delighted by the saganaki, which is dramatically flambéed by a server tableside with a cry of “Opa!” and melting the Greek cheese. Served with a side of toasted pita bread, it’s the restaurant’s most popular appetizer. Avgolemono, a traditional chicken, egg, lemon and rice soup, is a true taste of Greece.
And the seafood, as in Greece, is abundant — tilapia, salmon, squid, and shrimp can be prepared as requested, and the kitchen staff is ready to accommodate any dietary needs.
“More than half of the menu items are gluten-free,” Barbara said.
Regulars know it’s important to save room for dessert: It’s Greek To Me is known for its sweet treats.
“I always aim to do my best and make everything with love, especially the desserts,” Barbara said. “Our traditional Greek desserts are rich and delicious — the consistency of the filo dough is the base for many savory dishes and sweets, and must be made with finesse to accommodate walnuts, almonds, honey syrup and cinnamon, which are core ingredients for mouthwatering baklavas, flogeras and kataifis.”
The dessert menu also includes Greek-inspired American desserts like peanut butter cream pie in a chocolate crust and rice pudding.
“I know it has taken a lot of hard work and dedication from all of us — Vassili, our sons Niko and Alexander, our daughter, Maria, myself and our staff,” Barbara said of the restaurant’s 20-year run. “We want to thank all our guests for our success. We couldn't have done it without their years of loyalty to us. I am always so happy when our food is thoroughly enjoyed.”