The owners of The Parthenon want folks to have more options than Greek food in Greektown. That's why they're taking their banquet hall space and converting it into the Aviva, an 80-seat restaurant with a bar and lounge, that will serve food inspired by Spain, Italy, France, North Africa and spots in the Mediterranean. Look for Aviva to open by the end of January at 310 S. Halsted St.
Lorraine Rief-Liakouras owns the building, and her husband co-owns The Parthenon. She stresses Aviva is a separate operation, and she convinced chef consultant Alan Lake to helm the kitchen, concentrating his efforts at Aviva rather than serve as a hired gun, as he's done across the globe. The motivation for Aviva comes, in part, from the number of international guests who check in at The Chicago Parthenon Hostel, also owned by The Parthenon group.
"I would have people from all over the world stay, and they would ask 'where's a good place to eat?'" Rieff-Liakouras said. "Of course, I would say 'next door,' but they were looking for different cuisines, and this is an opportunity to put something in for them."
Lake said there's nothing like Aviva (which means "springtime" in Hebrew) in Greektown. He welcomes the challenge of creating a dishes coming from a variety of cultures. He said the menu will frequently change. Locally, he's worked at Pensiero Ristorante in Evanston, as well as overseeing food at East Bank Club and over at Chef O'Neill's. He's also a contributor on LTHForum.
"This is in my wheelhouse, we're not talking Korean or Northern Thai, I've been cooking for almost 34 years, I've traveled, I know the culture —not intimately, I don't want to be arrogant about it— but I'm fairly comfortable about doing the foods of the Mediterranean," Lake said.
Aviva also wants to take advantage of Greektown's proximity to Restaurant Row on Randolph Street. The West Loop continues to prosper, and Rief-Liakouras spoke about drawing Millennials to the restaurant, providing them an experience they can't currently find in Greektown. For phase one, they'll open the 30-seat lounge/bar area and 50-seat dining room. Later they'll open phase two that includes a private event area with a stage. Perhaps there's a jazz trio in Aviva's future. Keep it here for more as the calendar moves closer to opening day.