Food & Drink

The Authentic Greek Approach That Makes Vasili’s a Local Fixture

Fresh ingredients and family recipes help make this Greek restaurant popular

Vasili’s has adapted with both takeout and dine-in options for loyal customers over the course of the pandemic. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

It’s all Greek to Vasili’s, the popular restaurant on Mission Street that is named after its founder and has specialized in authentic old-world cuisine since 1991. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, current chef and owner Julie White purchased it from Vasili back in 2003. She spoke to GT about the Westside fixture’s staying power.

What sets the Greek food at Vasili’s apart?

JULIE WHITE: Lamb is a specialty of ours, and we also do a lot of other fresh grilled meats, as well as fresh salads and fresh soups. Our food is never frozen; it’s a fresher and healthier takeout option. We are the only authentic Greek restaurant in town. Our recipes are from Vasili’s great grandma, and originate from Constantinople. These recipes are from way back in time. They’re pretty special, and you won’t find them anywhere else.

What are some of the most traditional items on the menu?

Oven-roasted lamb shanks, marinated grilled chicken skewers, and moussaka, which is a traditional Greek casserole-style dish layered with eggplant, potato, ground beef, and bechamel sauce. Our tzatziki, a yogurt-based dip that has garlic, cucumber, and olive oil, is very traditional and people often come just for it. We also do Greek pork spare ribs that are seasoned with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and spices and then oven roasted and grilled. If you’ve never tried ribs Greek-style, they’re worth a shot.

How is the Greek culture embodied at Vasili’s?

It’s a real casual and friendly place; everyone is welcomed here just like family. When you walk in, I want our dining room to feel like your own, and to have it feel like you’re coming home. That’s how traditional Greek culture is: We always want to feed people and make them happy.

How has the restaurant fared amidst the pandemic?

We’ve actually been doing okay. We never shut down. We’ve been doing a lot of takeout and our food travels well. We’re very grateful for our regulars. We’re happy to have a few tables outside, as well as several full-service tables inside for now, but can’t wait to be able to fill our dining room again so we can get back to our lively and fun atmosphere.

1501 Mission St # A, Santa Cruz, 831-458-9808. 

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