A Greek restaurant that closed its doors on Worcester’s Shrewsbury Street two months ago is set to reopen in a larger space just feet from its former location, bringing with it an expanded menu and more events.
Meze Estiatorio — formerly Meze Greek Tapas — will likely open in about two weeks, pending city inspections, in the space formerly occupied by The Chameleon restaurant.
Panos Georgiadis, who owns the restaurant with his father, Sotirios “Sam” Georgiadis, said the larger space will allow Meze to expand its menu with a focus on entrées and host events like Greek nights with live music.
“After five years of being in the restaurant business on Shrewsbury Street, we learned a lot,” he said. “We learned how to change things for the better.”
The Georgiadis family bought the property at 166 Shrewsbury St. in September. The new space features an 80-seat dining room and full bar with local and Greek beverages on tap. Panos Georgiadis said the restaurant will import about 40 wines from across Greece and will have eight cocktails on draft, including Greek sangria and tea.
“A lot of the cocktails are regular cocktails people are familiar with, but they’ll have a Greek twist — Greek liquor or spirits or a Greek mixer,” he said.
Most ingredients will be sourced from Greece and the restaurant will use recipes passed down through the Georgiadis family, which hails from northern Macedonian Greece.
Panos Georgiadis is first-generation American and grew up on Belmont Street in Worcester.
“It’s authentic Greek food that we’ve kept for generations and now (I’m) a Worcester native, born and raised Worcester, giving authentic Greek food,” he said.
Signature menu items include spanakopita, made with spinach, feta and filo dough pie; Lavraki — fresh sea bass from Greece, stuffed with lemon and grilled; and Moussaka — layered potato, eggplant, ground beef and bechamel sauce with shaved kefalograviera cheese.
Georgiadis said he had his eye on the former Chameleon building ever since the restaurant was shut down and the property sized by the federal government after its owners were charged in a drug- and money laundering-related crimes.
As soon as the property was listed for sale, Georgiadis, who also has his real estate license, began asking if he could make an offer. After purchasing the building in the fall, he — with help from his father and his girlfriend, Atea Stiko — began renovating the space.
“We came in here and they had the neon green wallpaper and the yellow pine floor and it was kind of dark,” he said. “We came in and we did this limestone stucco that they do for all the buildings in Santorini and Mykonos on the outside, we were able to put it on all the interior walls, so it feels like you’re in Santorini.”
Meze also commissioned work from several artists, including a painting of Greek man doing a traditional zeibekiko dance that adorns a wall in the dining room. It was done by POW! WOW! Worcester artist Ryan Gardell.
“He came up with that whole design and that concept, that guy specifically he came up with by himself, we added the curled mustache because my great-great grandfather always had that curled mustache,” Georgiadis said.
A graffiti artist who goes by the name Ferd painted a Greek-inspired scene on a large outdoor wall.
Georgiadis added that owning the building will also allow Meze to host more events with live music. In its previous leased space, Georgiadis said the restaurant had to quiet things down around 10 p.m. due to upstairs neighbors.
The space is about 200 square feet larger than Meze’s previous location.
When it comes to the menu, Georgiadis said the family decided to focus more on entrées rather than the smaller plates Meze used to be known for.
And with that change came a new name.
“For here, we wanted to keep the Meze because I think we have a good reputation and it shows that it’s still us,” he said. “‘Estiatorio’ is like the Italian word ‘trattoria,’ it’s an upscale restaurant above a tavern or a tavérna, as they would call them in Greece.”
Georgiadis said Meze will use local ingredients and will source as many as possible from Greece — including salt and a variety of fish that’s flown in to Boston on ice.
“Within a day or two, it goes from swimming in the Mediterranean in Greece to being on your plate in Worcester, Massachusetts,” he said.
During the summer, the restaurant will have about 20 outdoor seats on the sidewalk. The space also has a private room that can host up to 25 people for special events.
Meze will likely open in two weeks, pending local approvals. Georgiadis said the restaurant plans to bring in a Greek band from Boston for a grand opening celebration.