First Look: Ithaka Greek Restaurant

Every family should have a favourite local Greek restaurant; one with great service, candle-lit tables, fall-off-the-bone roast lamb, and really good baklava. 

It’s a critical part of my family’s dining-out repertoire, satisfying my mother’s rare interest in spoiling herself, my “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” grandfather, and my brother’s odd obsession with Metaxa brandy. Me, I’m mostly in it for the lemon potatoes, with their crispy outer shells and scalding-hot insides. It’s been a long time now since my family sat down with a pile of pita and tzatziki, but knowing Ithaka’s around makes it that much more likely the next time they visit the Island.


It was only a few months ago that I sat down with Andreas Adamopoulos to talk about his family restaurant and their runaway success on Victoria review sites. Ithaka (formerly Passero’s), which Andreas’ family took over in June 2013, holds an 89% approval rating on Urbanspoon, 4.5 stars on Yelp and has been consistently in the top 5 Victoria restaurants on TripAdvisor since they opened with a stunning 250 reviews.

It’s rare that an old-school ethnic food joint scores such an impressive tally. Ithaka shares its top spot with the critically-acclaimed Brasserie L’ecole, Ulla, and Café Brio. I was dying to know made people want to sing Ithaka’s praises so loudly — and 45 minutes talking to Andreas and his mother Maria quickly enlightened me.

The poorly kept secret is that the Adamopoulos family has boundless enthusiasm for their restaurant and its patrons. They take immense pride in their family business, and their goal above all else is to ensure customers have a great experience. “There’s a Greek saying, philoxenia, which means to embrace strangers as friends,” Andreas told me. “This is one of our key components, to go above and beyond and offer warm and genuine personal service.” As soon as I walked in, Andreas treated me like his new best friend, and my spidey-senses picked up nothing but earnest good cheer.


A glance through their online reviews is plenty evidence of this — people have left paragraphs of effusive praise. “This is the kind of service that is rare in Victoria and keeps customers coming back,” says one. Another promises they would “return in a heartbeat.”

It helps that Andreas takes the time to personally respond to many of the reviews; in my experience with the industry, this buys a ton of goodwill — and encourages a lot of repeat business. “We have such amazing clientele, such beloved regulars who are on a first name basis with all our staff,” said Andreas, “and of course, we also appreciate our seasonal tourists. We look to offer people something a little different, be it an impromptu Zorba the Greek dance, maybe I’ll play my bouzouki, we like to share good food and have a little fun. That’s basically our philosophy.”

It’s tempting to neatly chalk up Ithaka’s success to great customer experiences, but service only gets you so far. Interestingly, if you ask Andreas, it’s got less to do with their personalities and more to do with his mother’s family recipes and their selection of high-quality ingredients. “Our main focus in the food,” he told me. “We start with using nothing but the best ingredients and recipes which have been handed down for years from Yia-yia, or grandma in Greek.”

Andreas and his mother Maria bake their own bread, simmer homemade fassolada and avgolemono soups, and hand cut and trim all the meats in house, including the free-range lamb sirloin used for souvlaki. They also source many ingredients directly from Greece, from the kefalograviera cheese used in their flaming saganaki to the little known and delicious Santorini Honey beer, made by an artisanal Grecian brewer called Volkan.

As our conversation began to wrap up and the calamari on my appetizer plate got cold, Andreas took another stab at explaining his family’s restaurant, this time through the time honoured Greek tradition of smashing plates. “When the music gets a little louder and we start dancing, we take the plate, smash it and yell OPA! Because you know what? The next day, provided we have our health, we can always buy another plate, we can always buy another shirt, we can always buy another good, but you cannot replace what’s truly important: to be surrounded by friends sharing wine and food, engaging in conversation and enjoying yourselves.” Words to live by.


Ithaka Greek Restaurant

1102 Yates St, Victoria, BC V8V 3M8


Written By:

Vancouver-born photographer, writer and designer Sol Kauffman has had his hands dirty in restaurant kitchens for years, washing dishes and slinging pizzas. In 2008 he moved to Victoria to pursue a BFA in Creative Writing at UVic ...

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