“Being raised Greek means being hospitable,” says Manoli Katsanevas, chef/owner of his eponymously monikered Manoli’s restaurant, snug on the southeast corner of 400 East and 900 South. This means more than providing superlative nosh and fabulous libations—though Manoli’s is nailing the hell out of those details on the daily—for Katsanevas it’s crucial that his place be a space where people feel welcome. Manoli’s is the fine-dining equivalent of an exuberant hug followed with a shot of ouzo: comfortable elegance mixed with unexpected surprises and a whole helluva lot of delicious fun. A modern, vibrant, yet intimate space that encourages guests to linger a little longer, order yet another glass of wine, cave in and splurge on dessert. With partner and pastry chef Katrina Cutrubus and general manager Sean Woodward, the insane hard work of these three food professionals is paying off in spades, with high praise and hallelujahs all over the place. We’re fans of the truly delightful food and on point service, but the design–by one of our perennial local faves, Rachel Hodson–is equally tasty. At Manoli’s all of your senses get some me-time.
Although young in years (they’re all under 30), Katsanevas, Cutrubus and Woodward have a wealth of experience in hospitality and food. Together, Katsanevas and Cutrubus ran a successful catering business for four years to build capital and credit toward their fine-dining dream. Cutrubus’s father is Greek, and she spent her youth learning the comfort recipes of his homeland and later traveled Europe. She especially fell in love with the language and flavors of Spain, which have profoundly influenced her pastry technique. Manoli Katsanevas has worked in restaurants since the age of 13, first with his family (yup, the fine folks who started SLC institution Crown Burger). After culinary school, he cooked at top spots around town like Fresco and Caffe Niche, and this grounding in spot-on classical European training shines through on the Manoli’s menu.
Witty interpretations of prime Greek ingredients are spun through with Spanish and French culinary technique and American ingenuity. Think smoked feta in brilliant red piquillo peppers (yemista), addictive lamb belly sliders (arni psito), perfectly roasted juicy chicken with wild mushrooms and chamomile broth draped over lemony rice pilaf (kota me hamomili), and Katrina’s kickass riff on cheesecake: a tangy yet light goat cheese pastry drizzled with (hell yes) black pepper honey. Adding to the local love, they prioritize sourcing from Utah producers like Jones Creek beef, Morgan Valley lamb, New Roots veggies, and much of their cheese and yogurt is made in-house with dairy from Utah farms, with the remainder sourced from Caputo’s and local purveyors. Makes us want to order yet another one of Woodward’s fabulous custom cocktails–made with juice from local boozemongers Sugar House Distillery vodka, High West rye, Beehive Jack Rabbit gin, and Distillery 36 Brigham rum on the short list–and cheer “Opa!”
In a genius move often overlooked by new restaurateurs, Katsanevas hired Sean Woodward as GM and spirits manager while the space was still under construction. “With Rachel, Sean completely got how we wanted the front of house service, the bar, and open kitchen to flow seamlessly,” says Katsanevas. In fact, the idea of “flow” echoes throughout the design, from the graceful warm olive oil hued green tiles strategically patterned on the kitchen walls to the shimmery Zion curtain panel that looks more like fine art than a liquor-viewing deterrent. Abstract paintings by Utah artist Michael Bernard echo the calm, natural and earthy elements of the space, as do the white hickory benches and bar shelves built by local custom woodworkers Brad and Darby Gates of Twice Life Wood, and sleek walnut elements integrated by Chimera Construction. Come springtime, all of this delightful motif will flow on out to the attached patio and al fresco lounge area, where we anticipate spending many a sunny Sunday brunch. Says Rachel Hodson of her design motivation, “I love to work with people who have integrity and heart, and Manoli and Katrina are about the nicest people I’ve ever met.” After visiting their house, Hodson realized that what she really wanted to create for these young restaurateurs was a home away from home, since they’d be spending almost every day all day in the space. Call us sold, baby. We love where they live, vicariously, at Manoli’s.
Manoli’s | 402 E 900 S, #2 | 801.532.2760