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Mile End’s New Greek Spot Dishes Spanakopita, Pastitsio, Paximadia, and More

“It’s basically foods that we grew up eating around the dinner table,” co-owner Angelis Sarbanis says of the menu at Kouzina Niata

hand holding spinach pie Kouzina Niata/Supplied

St-Viateur’s lunchtime offering continues to know no bounds, as the strip welcomes yet another grab-and-go spot — except this time it isn’t chicken or pizza, but homestyle Greek fare.

Kouzina Niata owners Angelis Sarbanis and Lampros Tsalamengas kicked off work on the project two year ago. Initially conceived as more of a sit-down affair, Sarbanis says the pair had to “scrap that” idea due to the pandemic and add a takeout fridge instead. “We ended making it more épicerie-style for, you know, today’s environment.”

Open since January 15, Kouzina Niata’s layout and look — courtesy of Montreal design firm Atelier Zébulon Perron, and featuring its now seemingly signature terrazzo — may be a slight departure from what was initially envisioned, but its goal to spotlight rustic Greek dishes remains the same.

“It’s basically foods that we grew up eating around the dinner table — it could have been my mom’s Greek biscuits, my grandmother’s style of phyllo pie, my aunt’s moussaka. We brought it all together,” Sarbanis, who has a background in food manufacturing, says. “But older Greek ladies don’t cook with measuring cups and they don’t like to shed their secrets, so we had to try and figure out how they did it, and add our own twist.”

Diners can expect a consistent line-up of flakey phyllo pies, including options like kotopita, filled with roast chicken, grilled veggies, and cheese; the well-known Greek staple of spanakopita, layered with spinach and barrel-aged feta; and kreatopita, a braised meat pie — all ranging from $5.50 to $6.50 (taxes included). On the sweet spectrum, there’s baklava cheesecake, chocolate chip halva cookies, and crunchy, double-baked paximadia, something akin to a biscotti.

Otherwise, there’ll be an array of daily offerings, which will include hearty soups, moussaka casseroles, and pastitsio (a baked dish made with ground meat, béchamel sauce, and a layer of long tubular pasta). “You could call it a Greek lasagna, but it’s better,” Sarbanis says. The restaurant’s small grocery section is stocked with imported products, including olive oil from Niata.

Named after the far-flung village in Greece’s Peloponnese region, where Sarbanis’s father and grandparents are originally from, Kouzina Niata takes over the site of the former La Crêpière, in the same Shiller Lavy-owned building that houses the once under-threat, but still-kicking S. W. Welch book store and the Laurier BBQ revival. Though seating at the new restaurant is limited — and not allowed at the moment anyhow — roughly 10 diners will eventually be able perch onto bar and window stools.

When Sarbanis’s family first immigrated to Montreal in 1967, they settled just around the corner, near the intersection of Bernard and de l’Esplanade. “I’ve always wanted to do something like this. Sipping on my espresso at Café Olimpico for all these years, I’d be like, ‘Man, it would be so cool to just open up a place here, in the area where my family laid their roots in Canada.”

Kouzina Niata is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 11 a.n. to 7 p.m., at 221 St-Viateur West.

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