Giorgios Nicholas Bakatsias is bringing a slice of Greece to Wilmington. Bakatsias, the head of Giorgios Hospitality Group, is an award-winning restaurateur who owns several renowned restaurants in the Raleigh/Durham area. Kipos Hellenic Cuisine is the latest addition to his empire.
Kipos is an upscale restaurant that emphasizes fresh seafood. It aims to serve the pure, simple, tasty dishes that diners can enjoy at the finest Greek restaurants throughout the world.
Bakatsias’ decision to open Kipos came from a combination of opportunity and a desire to give back to the Wilmington community. When the space housing the former 1900 Restaurant and Lounge in Lumina Station came open, Bakatsias saw a good location at which he could fill a void in the area’s restaurant options.
“There are a lot of great restaurants in Wilmington, but this style [upscale Greek food] is not here,” Bakatsias said. “I wanted to bring something to the community that adds value. Many people in Wilmington have traveled widely and will appreciate elevated Greek cuisine. People who haven’t traveled still want the highest quality of fish.”
As someone who often escaped to Wilmington’s beaches for rest and relaxation, Bakatsias also wanted to do his part for the community that has given him so much.
“This community is so special, and I wanted to be a part of it,” he said.
Bakatsias brought George Delidimos to Kipos as executive chef. Delidimos stressed that Kipos’ Mediterranean fare is far more than the traditional Greek food like moussaka (though the restaurant does serve the dish, and it’s made from scratch).
What makes the restaurant’s expansive menu exceptional is that the food is simple. However, diners shouldn’t let the word “simple” mislead them. “Simple” doesn’t mean that preparing the food is easy and it doesn’t mean the food isn’t tasty, Delidimos said. What it does mean is that diners can “experience the purest form of the flavors and ingredients of a country’s cuisine.”
With Delidimos’ extensive background in the culinary arts, he makes the “simple” food served at Kipos exceptional. The chef trained at the Swiss Culinary Institute in Athens, then apprenticed in hotels across Greece and Europe, before traveling to the United States and joining the Giorgios Hospitality Group. He has been with the Giorgios Hospitality Group for eight years and served as the executive chef of its Golden Fleece Slow Earth Kitchen in Asheville, which was recognized by Zagat as one of the “8 Hottest Restaurants and Bars in Asheville.”
However, Delidimos credits his grandmother for his love of cooking, and he has brought some of her recipes and cooking techniques to Kipos. One of those is braising, which Delidimos uses for many meat and fish dishes.
“These techniques have been used through the centuries,” said Delidimos. “Braising lets the ingredients shine. You cook the food slowly at low heat, and that gives all the flavors time to develop. Whether it’s meat or octopus, we have a lot of braising in this kitchen and use it the most.”
Kipos’s braised beef shortribs, which are served with orzo pasta and the Greek cheese gravierea, exemplify the benefits of braising. The shortribs, which are baked over two days, are first marinated overnight with cloves, cinnamon and rosemary in red wine. Next, they are dry cured with sugar, salt and cinnamon, then seared, then slowly braised in the oven.
“Braising gives different levels of depth to the dish,” said Delidimos.
In homage to its coastal location, Kipos also offers a large variety of fresh, whole seafood, which is sourced from Motts Channel Seafood. Diners can choose from red snapper, grouper, tuna, sea bass, flounder, shrimp and scallops. The fish is so fresh it often has been caught the very day it is selected by a diner for dinner.
Delidimos specializes in preparing the whole fish, which he said ensures the fish is moist and succulent. The fish can be fileted by a staff member or by the customer.
The grouper, already a favorite of Kipos’ diners, is slow roasted in the oven and served with roasted tomatoes, garlic sauce and fennel with a side of leafy greens and radishes.
Another popular seafood dish is Kipos’ fisherman’s stew. The hearty meal is made of aromatic fish stock and filled with clams, mussels, shrimp, salmon, grouper, potatoes and roasted fennel.
In keeping with Kipos’ high standards, the restaurant serves a variety of imported Greek cheeses, such as the above-mentioned graviera, aged feta and vlahotiri. Some are incorporated into dishes or sprinkled over salads, while others are served as stand-alones eaten with other little bites on the table.
There is also a large selection of mid- to top-tier Greek wines and craft cocktails made from fresh herbs and citrus for customers who wish to imbibe. Dessert selections include olive oil chocolate mousse, made from Verona bitter chocolate and topped with sea salt and fresh fruit, and the Greek coconut cake, ravani, which is doused with a luscious Greek syrup.
In Kipos, Bakatsias aimed to make dining more than a meal.
“I like to be known for sharing love through food,” said Bakatsias. “Even if I make a small difference in someone’s life, that is worthiness for me.”