Utah Bites

MANOLI’S 3.0 Great Greek Cuisine is Back, Baby!

I am thankful that we have restaurants like Manoli’s in our city’s ever-improving dining scene and that Manoli and Katrina have weathered all the storms they found themselves in to come back better than ever.


So, you think you want to own a restaurant? You might first want to consider the plight of Manoli Katsanevas, owner/chef of his namesake Greek restaurant, Manoli’s. 

Manoli Katsanevas

Everyone knows that restaurant ownership isn’t for the faint of heart. But Manoli and his wife Katrina Cutrubus have had more than their fair share of challenges since opening Manoli’s in 2015. As was the case with most restaurants, Manoli’s was forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic which put a lengthy pause to indoor dining. Manoli’s survived that interruption by doing pop-up online takeout service, such as their very popular Gyro Thursdays. Interestingly, Manoli’s doesn’t have gyros on the regular restaurant menu – perhaps that’s why the gyro promotions were so wildly successful; it’s a rare treat to enjoy a gyro made by Manoli and his crew. 

But at least during the pandemic Manoli’s had some income from food sales, however minute, thanks to those special promotions and takeout. When limited in-house dining returned and Manoli’s opened its doors – now for a second time – to customers things were starting to look up and business was good. But then another catastrophe hit. On December 30, 2022 – when everyone was looking forward to a post-pandemic New Year – a broken water line above the restaurant resulted in substantial damage, causing another closure, this one lasting four and a half months. Thanks to good insurance coverage and a lot of hard work, Manoli and Katrina were able to retain and pay their talented staff during the closure and Manoli’s opened – now for a third time – a couple weeks ago. Yes, Manoli’s is back and it’s better than ever.


From the get-go, Manoli’s has been all about magnificent meze – smaller appetizer-style plates like those served in the Levant that are perfect for sharing. Manoli’s lists about a dozen meze on the menu, divided into vegetarian meze, seafood meze, and meat meze. Probably the most common – I can’t imagine a Greek restaurant not serving them – is the scrumptious grape leaves called dolmades, stuffed with tomato-infused rice and herbs, drizzled with olive oil and plated on a bed of house-made Greek yogurt ($11). 


Another outstanding dish from the vegetarian meze portion of the menu is yemista ($9). This was a quartet of piquillo peppers stuffed with smoked feta cheese, drizzled with olive oil and garnished with minced green onions and black sea salt. It’s a simple but satisfying dish. 


The seafood meze portion of the menu tempts guests with dishes such as charred octopus with Zürsun beans and green olive relish, or grilled shrimp with Greek coffee BBQ sauce and seared herbed polenta. My wife and I loved our htenia seafood meze: a pair of perfectly seared sea scallops served on delicious yellow split pea puree and citrus ouzo vinaigrette, with crisp, colorful microgreens on top ($18). 


Moving on to the meat meze, I really liked the trio of pork and beef meatballs called keftedes ($13), with hints of mint and cinnamon in the homemade tomato sauce, topped with melted kefalograviera cheese. Other meat meze options include crispy chicken wings (kotopoulaki); braised pork shoulder (hirino); and grilled lamb riblets with caper chimichurri called paidakia. I should also make room to mention the outstanding service team at Manoli’s, which perfectly complements the talented kitchen staff. Servers like Landon make dining at Manoli’s a special event.


There’s one more vegetarian meze worth mentioning, especially since it’s one of the most delightful things I’ve ever put in my mouth. For me, the best part of a pizza or grilled cheese sandwich is the crispy, burnt bits of cheese that I consider a special prize. Well, at Manolli’s saganaki ($17) is an entire dish based around scrumptious seared cheese called kefalograviera. The cheese is cooked in an iron pan until crisp and comes to the table still sizzling, topped with barberries, dried apricots, sherry, and chopped olives, served with grilled lemon and delicious charred Roman-style pizza bread called pinsa. Saganaki is a taste treat that is new to the Manoli’s menu and I hope it sticks around forever. 

If you’ve read this far you know now that Manoli’s cuisine is built primarily around smaller, shared plates, which I consider a much more interesting dining experience than ordering one big entree of meat and potatoes. There are a trio of main dishes for diners to explore, however, including my wife’s favorite: lavraki ($MP), which is pan-seared branzino with pan-roasted potatoes and horta (wild greens). Other mains include a lamb and beef burger ($18) and makaronia: house-made pasta with roasted asparagus, fried artichoke, asparagus cream, and crunchy onion spice ($20). 


Side dishes at Manoli’s include that amazing pinsa bread ($7) I mentioned, as well as crispy fingerling potatoes with red pepper feta and pepperoncini ($9); braised seasonal greens ($9) with garlic, lemon and sea salt; and what it possibly the best rice side dish I’ve ever encountered: pilafi ($9), which is pilaf-style long grain rice cooked in house chicken stock and lemon, served with a dollop of house Greek yogurt. 


For dessert we enjoyed Greek donuts called loukoumades ($10), with spiced honey syrup, cinnamon and sesame seeds. Manoli’s also offers a selection of Greek dessert wines and spirits from their digestifs menu, as well as a handful of after dinner drinks and dessert wine flights to round out the evening. 

I am thankful that we have restaurants like Manoli’s in our city’s ever-improving dining scene and that Manoli and Katrina have weathered all the storms they found themselves in to come back better than ever. Manoli Katsanevas’  kind, welcoming, and calm presence – I don’t recall ever seeing him not smiling – and his culinary talent and commitment to fresh, local ingredients reminds me of another chef/restaurateur I admire a lot: Eric Ripert of NYC’s Le Bernardin. If you’re interested in great Greek cuisine that goes beyond souvlaki and gyros, Manoli’s 3.0 has your number.  

Photos by Ted Scheffler

Culinary quote of the week: “To eat and drink without a friend is to devour like the lion and the wolf.” – Epicurus 


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