A duo of longtime employees at Bay Area temples to Mediterranean cuisine — Kokkari Estiatorio and sister restaurant Evvia — have opened Taverna (800 Emerson), bringing an air of Greek hospitality to their current hometown of Palo Alto.
Thanasis Pashalidis and Hakan Bala met and bonded while working at Evvia in 2007, where Bala went on to work for a decade. Pashalidis arrived there after starting at Kokkari as a server in 2002 (at age 19), and later left Evvia for the Village Pub.
Taverna chef William Roberts was head chef at the Greek Dio Deka in Los Gatos and brings experience from Michael Mina and Village Pub. His menu focuses on Greek classics like tzatziki, grilled lamb and squid, smoked eggplant, and pork souvlaki. (A full menu is below). To complement the food, Taverna’s wine list has 150 labels of Greek, Californian, and French Wine.
As a younger generation of restaurateurs, Bala and Pashalidis aim to strike a balance between casual and fine dining with Taverna. “Anywhere you go in Greece, there’s a come-as-you-are approach,” Pashalidis says. “Our goal... is to bring a taste of that feeling of simplicity, that feeling of the old world [to Taverna].”
Located in the former La Morenita restaurant space, Taverna’s 50-seat, 1,400-square foot dining room was designed by Chris Irvine of OCKCO with more than a few Greek imports. Named for the classic style of Greek dining establishment, Taverna even boasts traditional taverna-style chairs imported from Greece— necessary seating to properly enjoy Hellenic cuisine.
Light fixtures were fashioned from fishing baskets, and walls were hung with photography of antiquities from the Acropolis Museum. The blue-and-white atmosphere aims to evoke the timeless feeling of the Greek isles. “When you’re in Greece, there’s no clock on the wall, your’e in this time capsule,” Pashalidis says.
Taverna is open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, closed Sundays.