Whether or not you’ve ever had the chance to visit Greece, just the thought of it probably brings a few things to mind: Pristine beaches with cerulean waters; world-shaping ideas and philosophy; and gregarious, friendly people who delight in sharing their food and wine.
The latter attribute is known as philoxenia in Greece (comically canonized for many Millennials by Aunt Voula in 2002’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding). It directly translates to “befriending a stranger” and is strongly correlated with “hospitality,” says Boston restaurateur Demetri Tsolakis. At his Back Bay wine bar, Krasi, philoxenia is the driving force: Guests never feel like outsiders—even though reading the menu is essentially cultural immersion.
Krasi pairs its versions of traditional Greek dishes with off-the-beaten path meze from across the isles. Tsipoura, or grilled sea bream, is a menu mainstay (with seasonal vegetables), marinated in a lemony dressing enhanced with kritamo, a wild coastal herb that imparts a minty, briny flavor. Lamb shanks and a rich sauce of ripe tomatoes meld with orzo in a take on osso buco (Giouvetsi). There is a daily offering of souvlaki, the classic street meat; from a perch in the narrow restaurant that overlooks the rotisserie grill, you’ll understand how the fatty pieces of Souvla get such a deep, smoky flavor.
Krasi literally means “wine,” and these small plates are complemented by bottle and glass options solely from the Hellenic Republic. It’s one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, but it’s still largely unexplored by most local drinkers. The knowledgeable staff will confidently guide lovers of French reds, Spanish whites, and neophytes alike around the largest Greek wine list in the U.S. They’ll also help you navigate the huge selection of snack-friendly cheeses, charcuterie, and house-baked breads to go along with it.
Tsolakis and his partners, creative development VP Stefanos Ougrinis and chef Theo Tsilipanos, are also behind Greco, our go-to spot for quick gyros and Loukoumades (Greek doughnuts). With beverage director Aliz Meszesi and local chefs Valentine Howell and Brendan Pelley, the team has formed Xenia Greek Hospitality, and opened a newer cocktail bar, Hecate, with plans for the forthcoming Bar Vlaha as well. The company’s sole mission? Making the conviviality and deliciousness which Greece is known for—that philoxenia—right at home in Boston.
To really feel like you’re being spoiled by a generous Greek grandmother, bring a crew to Krasi and order the Feast of the Gods ($379), a chef’s-choice selection that brings nearly the whole menu to your table.
Oenophiles will want to snag a seat at the long bar for Wine Symposium Wednesdays, which offer exclusive pours around a theme, presented with conversational (often hilarious) notes from wine director Evan Turner.
Line cook Oscar Flores has worked at 48 Gloucester Street for 30 years, formerly at predecessor Cafe Jaffa, and now at Krasi.