Ilias, Mary, and Stratos Chatzinikitas are working tirelessly to bring fresh, traditional Greek dishes to homes throughout America.
And they are delivering food ordered on their website, all without even one brick-and-mortar restaurant.
Their company, called Cali Orexi, delivers complete, authentic Greek dinners to the homes of their online customers.
Located in Beverly Hills, California, and now in operation for 18 months, Cali Orexi provides customers with traditional Greek cooking, just like homemade — along with a few contemporary twists.
The Chatzinikitas family arrived in the United States from Athens just eight years ago. Settling in California, they now operate from their base in Beverly Hills.
On the company website, Mary recalls her lifelong dedication to Greek cooking. “My grandparents set out on a journey when they were only ten years old, dreaming of a life in peace and prosperity. It was a journey from Asia Minor to Greece. While they had to leave most of their belongings behind, they didn’t leave behind their passion for cooking and the aromas of spices they loved in Constantinople, their hometown.
“Constantinople was a melting pot of rich gastronomic traditions. Cooking was an art, an expression of love, and of caring for others. Ingredients were always fresh and chosen with care. Once they settled in Greece, my grandparents were able to prosper and raise a large family. Over the years, they introduced their cuisine to their new homeland and shared it with the generations to come.”
Cali Orexi is run by Mary, who does most of the cooking, her husband Ilias, who handles the prep, as well as the shopping for food and their many deliveries. They work alongside their son Stratos, who is in charge of maintaining their online presence and other operational duties.
Regarding having enough experience to enter the very competitive world of offering gourmet home-delivered meals, Stratos said of his father Elias “He has always been in the restaurant business.
“He used to work in a very large fast-food chain we have in Greece, called Goody’s. He managed three of them, so he had a good idea of how a restaurant operation should function,” he added.
Cali Orexi customers order from an online menu of Greek entrees and side dishes. “We drop off boxes with ready meals, which means they are ready for the refrigerator, the freezer, or you can just warm them up and eat them. People usually buy three or four, and we have a lot of people who buy ten or 12 meals a week,” says Stratos.
Typical dinner entrees include the following scrumptious Greek fare:
Pastitsio Vegetarian — Greek thick pasta mingled with feta, followed by a mix of eggplant, zucchini, and red bell pepper, sautéed with onion and fresh tomato, topped with a creamy traditional béchamel sauce.
Shrimp Farro — Shrimp served with a side of farro, this entree includes touches of fennel, fresh onion, cardamom, ginger, coriander, curry, and olive oil.
Lemon Beef — Tender beef sautéed with onion and slowly cooked with lemon juice, fresh oregano, and bay leaf. Paired with rice pilaf made with a fresh herb mix, onion, red bell pepper, and lemon zest.
Regarding their philosophy of cooking, Stratos explains, “Anything we do is extremely traditional and made exceptionally well from the recipes of my great grandmother from Asia Minor. But we do have a lot of meals that are contemporary, where we started using grains or interesting spices, like ginger or other things that will spice it up — while maintaining the tradition.”
And how do they remember every ingredient in their many dishes and recipes? “We definitely write them down, but it is all in my mother’s head. She does not need to look up anything,” says Stratos with pride.
Currently, some 80 percent of Cali Orexi’s customers are Greek-Americans. But that is changing, notes Stratos, who adds “Many of them are Greek, but slowly I am seeing an increase in American customers, and I think it is because they are really becoming aware of Greek food.”
Mary recalls learning to cook in Greece, relating the story on Cali Orexi’s website. “I will always remember cooking with my grandmother when I was a little girl. I would sit on a high stool in the kitchen while she was cooking and she would ask me questions. ‘So Mary, what do you think we should add to make it perfect? What is missing?
“Whatever my answer was, she would always say ‘Remember Mary, the food you prepare is only delicious if made with love. You must always want to please the people you will be serving’. These words have never left me.”
For further information or to order, go to caliorexi.com