Yianni's Restaurant, Chatham
Where to eat in 2013: Greek fusion in Columbia County
Fine fusion fare
Photographs by Jennifer May
The Stefanopoulos family opened the first Four Brothers Pizza place in Connecticut in 1972; seven years later, they had an additional five restaurants — all in the Hudson Valley. It seems that people couldn’t get enough of their Greek goodies — pizza with a Mediterranean flair, generous Greek salads, and a now legendary bottled Greek salad dressing (a Best of Hudson Valley honoree in the past).
Today, their casual dining empire includes nine eateries, seven of them in Columbia, Dutchess, and Putnam counties.
But what many locals don’t realize is that these enterprising brothers, who emigrated from Greece in the early 1970s, have also kept their hand in the fine dining world. For more than 10 years, they have run the Boathouse in Lakeville, Connecticut, a classic eatery that offers an interesting mix of traditional American fare (steak, chops, fresh fish, and pasta) as well a full sushi bar. In May, they opened Yianni’s at the landmark Chatham House in Columbia County, a renovated 1859 hotel that until recently was the home of the award-winning Lipperas Restaurant. “It’s the exact same menu as the Boathouse,” says Peter Stefanopoulos of the new venture. “In fact, it’s the exact same chef, too. I brought Kevin Hohla over from Connecticut to run this place.”
Of course, it’s a different space than its Connecticut counterpart — and quite a dramatic one at that. The soaring dining room, with brick walls and chandeliers, is surrounded by cozier tavern tables and topped by a second-floor balcony. Stefanopoulos could quickly see the wow factor. “I love vintage buildings and I just fell in love with this one,” he says. “I knew I could attract both locals and people from the city.” Stefanopoulos opted to expand the tavern/bar area around completely — adding a granite top bar with onyx sides. There are 20 bar stools and additional tables. The large porch gets utilized in warm weather for al fresco dining.
Stefanopoulos says the fusion menu has worked well in Lakeville and is already popular in Chatham. Lemon beurre blanc provides a base for pan-seared diver sea scallops. Shrimp and scallop risotto is paired with sweet peas. New York Strip Steak provides a traditional choice; filet mignon with herb garlic butter and demi-glace is another carnivorous option. Fresh fish is delivered daily, usually from Rhode Island, and the restaurant relies heavily on two Stefanopoulos family farms — one in Millerton, the other back in Greece. “We have 150 goats at our local farm,” says Stefanopoulos, noting that this is where they make their popular artisanal yogurt (so creamy that it is on the dessert menu at Yianni’s) and goat and feta cheeses, all of which are sold to restaurants in New York City as well as the general public. Their extra virgin olive oil is bottled in the old country. Other local farmers supply vegetables and eggs. “We use nothing but local,” says Stefanopoulos. “Always.” This focus extends to the bar, where the comprehensive drinks list includes Chatham Brewing Company beers on tap.
In addition to the dining room, with its 150 seats, there are three private dining rooms upstairs with views of the main room. There is also a large basement space which is available for weddings and other larger parties. Next up, the brothers hope to open suites on the third floor for out-of-town guests. “This is really a special place,” says Stefanopoulos. “Every day, people walking by, stick their heads in and tell me so.”