Taki Sawi smelled smoke early in the morning of October 12. It was a rude awakening made ruder by the fact that he was sleeping in a room across the parking lot from the ovens and burners of his Santorini Greek Kitchen. He rushed to the window to see white, then black, smoke billowing from the building and watched as his aspirations literally went up in flames. Firefighters arrived within moments, soon enough to save the building, but most of the restaurant’s interior was destroyed.
As the news spread, the Sawis’ clientele shared the heavy feeling. “People would come by and offer condolences,” says his wife, Jeanette. “It felt like a wake.” The couple mourned their ruined restaurant for two days after the fire (caused, it is thought, by faulty wiring). Then they got back to work. In December, Taki was cooking in a brand-new kitchen, and his guests were eating baba ganoush in a sunny, repainted dining room, with just a few warped tabletops serving as the only reminders of the blaze. “This is more than just a restaurant,” says Taki. “To me, it is my heart.”
Santorini Greek Kitchen
1417 E. Prospect St., 917-1117
Photograph by Tony Valainis
This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue.