Dimitris Harvalis knows almost every island of his native Greece. "We used to visit a different one each holiday," he explains. But that wasn't the true inspiration behind his Mediterranean restaurant, Elia Gourmet. His grandmother Cornelia was.
As a young child, Harvalis would watch his grandmother make her dishes. "I used to go to the market with her every day. She'd get everything fresh."
That concept stuck with him and is the driving philosophy of his restaurant. When he opened his first location on Biscayne Boulevard in September 2012, it had no freezer. "There was no need. Everything we make is fresh."
Elia Gourmet moved to a larger location a few stores down this past March (900 Biscayne Blvd.). Equipped with a larger kitchen, the expanded restaurant offers dinner. Harvalis now plans to open a Wynwood market.
The 3,000-square-foot location (to be announced at a later date) is slated to open this summer, offering the popular spreads and phyllo pies that Dimitris makes in-house. It will also offer Mediterranean products such as Greek olive oil, spices, pastas, cheese, and coffee.
“Wynwood is an amazing neighborhood, and we’re excited to be a part of it."
Elia Gourmet also offers catering and Fit by Elia, a meal plan service designed for professional athletes or those carefully monitoring their health.
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Asked about the namesake of his growing empire, Harvalis explains the choice was easy. "In Greek, elia means 'olive tree.' I wanted something that would signify the strength that a little place can have. Olive trees grow in the harshest of conditions and last thousands of years. In Greece, the olive tree is a symbol of strength."
Popular dishes at Elia include bacon-wrapped Moroccan dates ($10) stuffed with goat cheese and mascarpone and drizzled with fig glaze, and the Mediterranean platter ($12), which comes with hummus, eggplant-based baba gannouj, and tzatziki served alongside wedges of warm pita bread.
For dinner, oven-baked salmon spanakorizo ($18) — crusted with whole-grain mustard and served with a side of spanakorizo (brown rice and creamy spinach) — is a dish Harvalis is excited about. "We partnered up with Atlantic Sapphire Salmon, based in Denmark. They offer sustainable fish, even re-creating the wild living conditions leading to leaner meat and more of a wild salmon flavor."