A Greek native finds his home in St. Paul, and brings tasty pork gyros with him.
Flirt, be chic, get naughty at the Greek
The scene on Selby just got a whole lot feta. The Naughty Greek, run by Angelo Giovanis, has become a hot spot for the neighborhood. Located in the old Cupcake space, the new eatery opened in November 2016. Lead by frustration in finding authentic Greek food in Minnesota, Greek-born Giovanis decided to become “The big feta” and open his own authentic shop, based on the tastes Giovanis misses from the Greek hills of the Peloponnese. The entire menu reflects things he always wants to eat himself, making it hard for him to choose a favorite off the menu:
“I would say I have two favorite dishes followed by a dessert. My favorite dish is the ½ lb lamb plate. I love lamb, I love tzatziki and fries and the combination of the three on one plate makes me happy. My pork gyro is the reason why I opened this restaurant – eating this “sandwich” brings me back to the streets of Athens. Lastly, the orange filo cake is a favorite of me and my family, it is my Grandma’s recipe (thus called Yiayias Orange Fillo cake) and reminds me of her; it’s also the best way to end a Greek savory meal.”
Inspired by his grandma, and the rest of his family, he has now managed to create and open an adorable shop in the heart of St. Paul. From the authentic ingredients to the family feel, The Naughty Greek has nailed it. The shop roasts locally-sourced pork and chicken on their spits run by Giovanis himself, and adds herbs, honey, feta for recipes shipped directly from Greece. With fervently passionate and sincere hospitality offered by the whole family, the Naughty Greek succeeds in bringing traditionally friendly service and heartfelt flavor to Minnesota.
With a name like “The Naughty Greek” and a menu filled with fun images and slogans, like “take out + make out,” “don’t touch my ass,” “get fresh with me,” and “S.W.A.G : She wants a Greek,” it’s hard not to be curious about where the name came from…
“Originally my wife Kristen came up with the name, but as we discussed it I realized that it applied to my concept and to me as an owner. Although I could fake it, I never actually fit into corporate America; it was stifling. I have an adventurous soul and I wanted the freedom to pursue my career in a fun and creative way. I wanted to open a restaurant that wasn’t a ‘typical’ gyro or Greek restaurant; I wanted something that had a little lightness, playfulness, and fun to it.”
With a perception of Greek restaurants being “old school” in décor and food, Giovanis wanted to emulate more of the modern Greek feel that he knows and has seen in Athenian gyro shops. But with a bit of twist; a mix of fresh local and authentic street food.
With a background of working in his father’s restaurant in Greece, and some time at Institute of Culinary Arts in Minneapolis, Giovanis has managed to escape the corporate world of medical devices (the industry in which he worked previously). But it wouldn’t have been possible without his family giving him the strength and courage (and even the elbow grease, working alongside Giovanis in the shop), to pursue his dream. As he says,
“My daughters are working the counter and my father, mother, grandmother and brother acted as advisors when it came to the recipes.”
And are there plans to open more locations in the future?
“My heart says no, but my family wants me to. For now, I am focused on making this little restaurant the very best it can be. All I want to do is make every person who walks in the doors happy either because 1) they are tasting something amazing and new; 2) our food, tastes and ambiance brought them back to a pleasant memory of their past; or 3) they are learning something new about our culture and cuisine.”
Until then, it looks like Saint Paul will continue to enjoy exclusivity in having the only Naughty Greek to get fresh with.
The Naughty Greek | 181 Snelling Ave N, St Paul, MN 55104 | (651) 219-4438
Written by Apryl Cave. All photos courtesy of Apryl Cave.