By Kristal Leebrick
When Angelo Giovanis left Greece—and his parents’ restaurant business—just after high school, he said he would never work in a restaurant again.
He attended the University of Belgium in Brussels and spent the next 10 years there, where he met his wife, Kristen, a Minnesota native. After their first child was born, the couple decided to move to his wife’s home state.
Nineteen years later, after a career in the medical device business, the guy who said he wouldn’t work in a kitchen again is about to open a second restaurant on University Avenue in St. Paul. The second Naughty Greek will open at 2400 University Ave., in the C&E Flats & Lofts building, in late November or early December if all goes to plan, Giovanis said.
Giovanis’ catering business and first restaurant, which opened at Snelling and Selby avenues a year ago, has been so successful that he needed a new space with a larger kitchen and more storage to house the olive oil, feta cheese, honey and olives that Giovanis will import from Greece, he said. The restaurant will seat up to 74 people.
The menu at the University Avenue restaurant will be similar to the Snelling Avenue menu but will offer more daily specials, and he’ll have room to install a roaster for chicken gyro, Giovannis said, something he hasn’t been able to do at his smaller shop on Snelling. The Naughty Greek’s signature dish is pork gyro—layers of locally sourced meat, herbs, garlic, olive oil and citrus—that he stacks and roasts in a traditional gyro grill. What makes his dish unique is (1) it’s pork, not lamb, and (2) it’s not the frozen pressedmeat product that is readily available from restaurant vendors.
“It’s so important to use a combination of different cuts,” Giovanis said. “It’s not those cones of meat. It’s the traditional fresh product,” which he serves with warm pita bread and tzatziki, a yogurt sauce made with “real Greek yogurt” not “Greek-style yogurt,” he said. He does offer lamb chops “grilled with lemon, oregano, salt and pepper. It’s simple and delicious.”
And the feta cheese on the salads? “Greek feta. It really is different from what you get elsewhere. It’s 70 percent sheep milk and 30 percent goat’s milk. These are Greek goats and Greek sheep,” he said. “They graze on very different plants than what you have here.” The wine and beer? All Greek labels. So what about the name? “It means we’re going against the grain,” Giovanis said. “My wife came up with the name.”
Giovanis chose the new location for his second shop because of its proximity to Highway 280 and I-94. And because he loves St. Paul. His experience working with the city of St. Paul “was so positive there was no reason to get up and try something [in Minneapolis],” he said.