Restaurant: Emilitsa

(At the end of the following review there is an addendum relative to the connection between Emilitsa and my hometown of Duluth, Minnesota)

We went to Emilitsa with Melanie and Eliot.

Emilitsa, a traditional Greek restaurant, was opened in 2008 by two brothers named Demos and John Regas. Demos was the chef and John ran the front of the House. In 2015, Demos’ son Niko took over for his father as Executive Chef.

The restaurant is long and narrow. As you enter, to the left is a bar with seven high chairs. To the right there are five 2-tops and then a waist to ceiling wine rack separating the front of the restaurant from the rest. Our table was the first 4-top after the wine rack.

Behind the wine rack, most of the tables are on the right side. There is a banquette that runs from the wine rack to the back wall. The first banquette is of red upholstery which then changes to yellow further back. The tables fronting the banquette are 2-tops which can be combined for larger parties. At the back of the restaurant there is one table to the left that can seat up to 8 people.

Overall the restaurant can seat 47 people including the seven seats at the bar.

The kitchen is at the back of the restaurant.

To begin our meal, we shared taramosalata – red caviar pureed with lemon; melitzanosalata – fire-roasted smoked organic eggplant, unfiltered evoo, red onion, capers; skorthalia – potato-garlic puree.

Melanie, Debbie and Eliot chose as their starter “domata salata” – sweet local tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, garlic and feta cheese tossed with unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil, and greek white balsamic vinegar. I started with “patzaria psita meh skorthalia” – local organic roasted red and golden beets tossed with unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil and muscato vinegar, served with skorthalia, a potato and garlic puree.

I also selected a second appetizer, “octopothi tis skaras” – classic grilled Mediterranean octopus drizzled with unfiltered extra virgin olive oil lemon juice, served with tossed organic micro-greens and garlic toast.

Melanie then selected the octopus as her main course.

For their main course, Debbie and Eliot chose “paithakia galaktos tis skaras” – Australian grass-fed lamb loin chops, marinated and grilled, served with sautéed baby spinach, feta-parsnip potato mash.

For my main course I chose “tsipoura tis skaras” – whole Mediterranean gilt head bream grilled and brushed with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and fresh lemon juice. I chose to add spinach and rice pilaf.

Rachel was our server who was quite attentive and did a first-rate job of deboning my fish with two spoons and sliding it on to an empty plate. I had never before seen anyone filet a fish using only spoons.

We chose to skip dessert at the restaurant and instead drove over to “Red’s” in South Portland. Eliot describes Red’s as having the “best soft-serve ice cream in America”. It is pretty good, especially with chocolate sauce.

To the right at the end of the dining room are two gender neutral restrooms.

In the restroom I used there is a black ceramic-like counter into which is sunk an oval white ceramic wash basin. Then there is a single wall hanging water conserving urinal. The room is completed with a single white ceramic commode in a separate room within the room. The walls are alternatively brick and smooth painted green. The floor is covered with large slightly off-white tiles. I assume both of the restrooms are the same.

Here is the twist to the above. I left Duluth, Minnesota in 1961. I discovered in a conversation during our visit to Emilitsa that John and Demos left Duluth in 1981 but the Regas family still owns the Coney Island Deluxe restaurant there. It is located at 112 West 1st Street and was opened in 1928. My family had a branch of the family business, Independent Cleaners and Launders, two blocks away to the west on 1st Street.

Now here is where it gets a little complicated. There was another Coney Island restaurant in Duluth when I was growing up located at 107 East Superior Street. It was owned by a different family and is now closed.

I am quite certain that I bought hotdogs from the Coney Island Deluxe. But I think more often I bought them from the Coney Island on Superior Street. It was not unusual for me to buy a half dozen at a time.

I remember one particular day when I went to the Superior Street Coney Island with my friend Bob Zimmerman. He ordered a single hot dog. I ordered six and we snuck them into the Norshor Movie Theater which was a block to the east on Superior Street. To this day he is skinny and more talented than I am.

I plan to visit Coney Island Deluxe the next time I am in Duluth.

547 Congress Street
Portland, Maine 04101