People have been sampling a taste of Greece in the heart of Rutland for nearly half a century.
The Olympia Greek Taverna on Highway 33 will celebrate its 45th anniversary operating in Rutland this year and if you count its other downtown location where one stood on Bernard Avenue (closed in 2006), that marks 50 years for the family-owned business.
Spanning three generations, brothers Mike and Chris Koutsantonis currently own the restaurant. Their father Steve Anast/Koutsantonis and uncle Chris Anast saw an opportunity in Rutland and originally decided to open the restaurant in a place that was much quieter than it is today.
“When we first started back in ’68 it was basically pizza and pasta. We didn’t have any of the Greek food, or steaks or ribs,” said Mike. “In ’89 I took over this place here and my brother joined me after that.”
With the help of mother Meli Koutsantonis, the menu gradually changed to feature more Greek items. In 1996, the Rutland location was completely renovated.
“We basically gutted the place and made it into what you see today,” said Mike.
The restaurant has a high ceiling with a painted blue sky, green plants placed throughout with pillars splashed with colours of yellow, red and green.
“The whole idea was to make it very Greek. We wanted to make a little Greek oasis here in Kelowna,” said Mike.
Mike said there is a demand for ethnic foods in Kelowna, and family-owned businesses are becoming a thing of the past. But, the family enjoys the restaurant life, even though it means working long hours.
Meli is 82 and she arrives every day to help with prep work in the kitchen.
Kazi Koutsantonis, Mike’s daughter, also manages the front of the restaurant. Chris looks after the kitchen and Mike manages the front with Kazi. “It’s nice that if someone needs to get away there’s always someone in the family here at the restaurant,” said Mike.
“We enjoy it, it was something that we saw a future in,” he said. There’s also the comfort of being your own boss, said Chris.
“It’s a lot of work, it’s long hours and when people are going out on the weekend, we’re feeding them,” said Mike, but the reward is choosing your own destiny.
For first-time visitors, Chris recommends the lamb kleftico, roasted for four hours and drizzled in mustard sauce.
“And it’s just fall off the bone delicious,” said Mike.
The chicken souvlaki is another popular dish, along with moussaka and Kazi recommended the lasagna, which has been a popular pasta dish for the restaurant since its inception.
The Koutsantonis’s may have the longest family-run restaurant in Kelowna. It’s certainly one of the best and a fixture in Rutland.
On April 28 and 29, the restaurant will be celebrating its anniversary with special prices lowered to its 1973 pricing.
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