Michael Schlow believes he has solved the Greek crisis. No, not that Greek crisis—save that for Angela Merkel and the rest of the EU. We’re talking about Boston’s shortage of top-notch Greek restaurants. Enter Doretta Taverna & Raw Bar, set to open by the end of September in the Heritage on the Garden building.
“It’s not that we didn’t have any Greek restaurants, but they were more mom-and-pop,” Schlow says. “Or lots of restaurants say they’re Mediterranean. We are unabashedly Greek. We’re using a lot of the recipes that haven’t been well represented in this city. It’s all about fresh products, simply prepared.”
The menu has sections for raw bar, spreads, small plates, meat and fish entrees and sides. Some plates update Greek favorites, like a family recipe of chicken braised in tomato, cinnamon and butter; Schlow tweaked the presentation and balance of ingredients, adding a touch of puffed black rice on top. The kitchen also experimented with zucchini chips until it found the proper crisp, but Schlow plans on giving the grilled octopus dish a traditional treatment.
“Sometimes food doesn’t need my interpretation to make it better,” he says. “There would be nothing better than people from Greece saying, ‘I feel like I’m eating at home.’ When we were testing out dishes, I had this one Greek couple come in, and I cooked for them. And they said, ‘It’s better than home.’ ”
But Schlow wants the atmosphere to appeal to more than just Greek natives. Pronunciation-phobes will find all the dishes listed by their ingredients rather than the Greek names. And you won’t find the expected blue-and-white color scheme or Lithos font at Doretta, whose space, formerly home to Schlow’s Via Matta, has undergone a major transformation. The entrance is in a more accessible spot, with an awning, patio plants and an illuminated painting marking the way for patrons. (“For 13 years, I watched as everyone went to every single door except for the actual front door,” Schlow muses.) In the center of the space is a zinc-topped 28-seat bar, which will serve Greek-inspired cocktails with an emphasis on citrus and spices. The left side of the restaurant is now a food station displaying salad, dessert and raw items. And above the wood tables and cracked-leather banquettes along the rear wall is a 60-foot mural hand-painted by Schlow’s wife, Adrienne, who created all the art in the restaurant.
“My wife has been painting for years, but she started doing professional stuff 20 months ago,” Schlow says. “She’s like my own in-house artist.”
The busy restaurateur promises he’ll be putting his own touch on the kitchen, donning an apron whenever he’s in town. It’s something that Bostonians looking for more Greek cuisine will be happy to hear.
“Maybe we’re the first in this focused area, but we won’t be the last,” Schlow says. “This is a high-energy, high-impact food. You’re going to see more come.”
Doretta Taverna & Raw Bar Heritage on the Garden, 79 Park Plaza, Boston (617-422-0008) dorettaboston.com