There were times when restaurateurs Luke Stoioff and David Rekhson wondered if they had bitten off more than they could chew.
As the financial fallout from the pandemic caused many sleepless nights, they still pushed forward with plans to open a Greek restaurant in Chicago. Then the management group representing Oakbrook Center notified them about another opportunity.
A lease opened up in the upscale Oak Brook mall, and did DineAmic Hospitality, the company they co-founded, want to snap it up?
Longtime admirers of the dining legacy at Oakbrook Center, they couldn’t turn down the offer. No matter how busy they were getting Lyra up and running in Fulton Market, it was the perfect chance to expand their brand.
Violi fulfills their vision of bringing a traditional taverna to the Western suburbs. Featuring Greek favorites with a modern twist, Violi is the more casual complement to Lyra, which has grown in popularity since its opening in January.
Located at 260 Oakbrook Center in the former Mon Ami Gabi space, Violi opened on Nov. 21 in an atmosphere described by the owners as a “Mykonian escape.” It has 6,300 square feet of interior space and an all-season, 2,000-square-foot pergola patio.
“We were in a very dark place when we closed this deal because of the pandemic, but we’re still always working on getting deals done,” Stoioff said. “We love Oak Brook and the community out there, and we’ve had our eye on that for about 10 years. It was a challenge getting both restaurants going. But it was worth the effort.”
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Stoioff said the Violi menu reflects the casual atmosphere. While Lyra boasts numerous broiled and grilled entrees, Violi features smaller, shareable items that are roasted and baked.
Violi chef and partner Athinagoras Kostakos, the winner of Greece’s “Top Chef” show, creates favorites like grilled octopus, moussaka with beef ragu and slow-roasted lamb gyro similar to the fare at Lyra. Other items — such as roasted eggplant, herb-crusted sea bass and chicken thigh kokkinisto — are designed specifically for Violi’s taverna-style environment.
“Everything is meant to be shared,” Stoioff said. “You don’t have to make any decisions on one thing. Just order what you want as a group, and you can all share it.”
Violi is open from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Reservations can be made at tavernavioli.com.
“We needed a lot of faith and had to take a little bit of a leap to get this done,” Stoioff said. “We went for it, and it paid off.”