In Ipswich, Ithaki is the last word on Mediterranean cuisine. By Anna and David Kasabian
Ipswich’s Ithaki restaurant is an unexpected little jewel, tucked off the main thoroughfare of a town known to most for its clams. Here, fresh homemade fare is created from the heart by owner Petros Markopoulos. “I am in love with food!” says the one-time economics major turned interior designer turned chef. It has been a journey of hard work driven by his lifelong passion.
If Markopoulos can make an item from scratch, he will—starting with the pita bread and moving on down the menu. If he can find it locally grown or raised, it will be in his kitchen. For example, he makes his own pasta with organic flour, and he uses organic eggs from neighboring Rowley. For his amazing creamy, slightly tart yogurt, the only supplier to make his purveyor list is in New York. The few things he imports include olives, feta cheese, and organic olive oil, the latter of which comes from Crete.
For appetizers, we tried the bread spreads. The spreads were fresh and fabulous, as were the pita chips. Spreads included tzatziki, made with yogurt and cucumber; tirokafteri, made with feta, grilled green peppers, and olive oil; taramosalata, a blend of haddock roe, olive oil, vinegar, and potatoes; and hummus.
You won’t find heavy sauces topping Markopoulos’s dishes, as he prefers to let the natural flavors of his ingredients take center stage. The second appetizer we selected from Ithaki’s impressive menu was the shrimp saganaki, a delicious dish with big Gulf shrimp baked with feta cheese, capers, tomato, and herbs—a piping-hot savory, satisfying dish.
For the main courses, we chose fettucine with mahogany, little necks, and cockle clams, plus the souvlaki. The homemade pasta was a great anchor for the clams and a nicely flavored broth with a little heat from the chili flakes. The grilled heritage breed pork in the souvlaki was tender and sweet, while the accompanying roasted vegetables added a delicious sweet note.
For dessert, we chose the pistachio baklava with homemade pistachio ice cream and the galactobouriko, a remarkable milk custard baked in phyllo dough and topped with sour cherries. Both surpassed our expectations and spoke to the loving hand of their creator.
Chef: Petros Markopoulos. Appetizers: Bread spreads—tzatziki, taramosalata, tirokafteri, hummus with pita chips ($15), shrimp saganaki, shrimp baked with feta, tomato, capers, and herbs ($12).
Entrees: Fettucine with clams, ($22), souvlaki ($24). Dessert: Pistachio baklava with pistachio ice cream, ($8), Galactobouriko ($7). Location: 25 Hammett Street, Ipswich, 978-356-0099.