Pan-Regional Mediterranean Cuisine at Ilona Now Open in the South End
Mediterranean fare has never been particularly difficult to come by in Boston. Throw a stick and you can find just about any restaurant of your choice that bills itself as Mediterranean-inspired - from fast casual pita shacks to whatever it is Jody Adams feels like serving you at Porto this week.
The problem is that no one really can come to a consensus agreement on what constitutes Mediterranean food, be it traditional or inspired. And with good reason. It’s a broad reaching term, encompassing everything from Spanish tapas to Turkish cuisine, because… well, it’s a broad geographic region. Both flavor and technique will vary between nations, each lending their own distinct hue to its rich tapestry. As a result, a certain sense of culinary segregation abounds.
Ilona, the latest venture from Irakli Gogitidze and George Axiotis which opened last week in the South End, may change that perception. If their names don’t ring a bell, their other restaurants might. The extensive traditional Greek menu at Kava in the Back Bay. Or the impossibly trendy ceviche hot spot Puro on Newbury St. Or the long-running late night favorite New York Pizza in the Theater District (which is neither traditional Mediterranean nor New York style, but does bear the distinction of being one of the local few restaurants to turn to at 2 in the morning that’s not… well, don’t ask).
Overseeing the menu at Ilona is Jesus Preciado (also responsible for the menus at Kava and Puro.) Eater reports a broad array of Eastern Mediterranean cuisine, inspired by traditional fare from regions including Georgia, Greece, Lebanon, Turkey and Israel. Offerings include crispy eggplant, salt cod fritters, mussels with monkfish, fattoush, grilled fish, and braised beef with plum sauce
“We’re from that part of the world, so that’s how we ended up with that concept,” Gogitidze told the blog. “The name behind Ilona means ‘joy’ in our culture: getting together with friends, breaking bread, sharing wine — all the good stuff.”
But it’s not just the food which could make Ilona stand out. It’s the decor, as well. A sneak peek reveals an almost whimsical sensibility contrasting with modernist lighting. Plush, teal blue booths are offset against light pink plates and chairs. And dominating the otherwise stark white walls are eye-catching murals on behalf of local artist Giorgi Shanidze.
“We wanted to do something fresh and different,” Gogitidze says. “We’re more of your everyday, trendy place that you would feel welcome and wanting to hang out every day.”
“In our culture, breaking bread and sharing wine is a big part of life,” he told Boston magazine. "We wanted to create a space to translate all of that into a reality.”
Ilona is located at 783 Tremont St in Boston, and is open daily from 5:00 pm - 11:00 pm. For more information, visit www.ilonasouthend.com/