It’s All Greek to Them

Appears in the January 2023 issue.

By Peter Gianopulos

New Mykonos-inspired taverna


Tuna Tartare
Tuna Tartare

True love will make you do the craziest things. Just look at Lucas Stoioff and David Rekhson, owners of the striking new Violí in Oakbrook Center. First time the duo visited the Grecian island of Mykonos, they fell hard for the place. The weather. The views. And, oh, sweet Zeus, that food. To hear them tell the story, it was as mesmerizing as a siren’s call.

In order to break free of their enchantment, they vowed to go home and build an authentic Mykonos-inspired eatery. And spare no expense doing it. True to their word, they recruited the island’s most famous chef, Athinagoras Kostakos, to whip up the kind of Greek dishes you never see in American tavernas. A huge slab of slow-roasted lamb shoulder served “gyro-style” with various sauces and pita for sandwich-making. Greek-style tuna tartare studded with Kalamata olives and Fresno chiles. And Cypriot sausages gilded with avgolemono (read: Greek lemon) sauce.

All this great food, it was decided, would be served in a dining room that swaps out whitewashed and Aegean-blue clichés for earth tones, woodwork inspired by ancient olive trees, and bright bougainvillea pops of magenta. There’s also an all-season outdoor pergola patio, complete with olive trees.

“I think the partnership with Athinagoras works so well because we have such similar tastes in food, music, and decor,” Stoioff says. Apparently, you can add ambition to that list as well. Violí (Greek for violin) was named after the street violinists who strum such beautiful music across Mykonos. The new taverna is a sister property to Lyra, which the trio opened in 2022 in Fulton Market.

“Look, those Greektown chefs and restaurant owners and patrons were the real pioneers,” Stoioff says. “We’re just trying to honor what they built by picking up the trail they already started.”


Photo courtesy of Marcin Cymmer