Haute Dining: 10 Questions For Chef Maria Loi of Loi

A few weeks ago, celebrated Greek chef and restaurateur Maria Loi was cooking traditional Greek specialties at the White House for President Obama, Vice President Biden and Archbishop Demetrios in honor of the 26th Greek Independence Day celebration.

Today, she’s gearing up for another festivity: Greek Easter. On April 15th, Maria will be hosting an outdoor lamb roast from 12-1 and serving an Easter feast at her Upper West Side restaurant, Loi, from 1-9, which will include such traditional Greek specialties as Greek Easter soup, marouli salad and spitfire roasted lamb.

Here, I speak with Maria Loi about Easter and her soon to be opened Greek wine bar.

Haute Living: What’s new at Loi since opening in October?
Maria Loi: We’re opening a new Greek wine bar—it’s the only Greek wine bar in New York. We’re also gearing up for Easter—a holiday that I’m very excited for this year, being that it’s my first in the states. Easter was always a wonderful holiday for me growing up and still is today. It reminds me of family and culture, and of course, it’s all about the food! At Loi,I am serving all of the traditional dishes, including Magheritsa soup, Tsoureki, Koulourakia & Arni Sti Souvla (roasted lamb on spit).

HL: What are some of your favorite dishes at your Loi?
ML: Moussaka, the fish (black sea bass or red snapper or pink snapper from the Mediterranean) with sea salt crust for two.

HL: Where do you like to dine when you’re not working (preferably in NYC, but you can list other places?
ML: I have two favorites. Salumeria Rossi. He [Cesare Casella] is one of the best chefs in the worlds to me. Every Saturday morning I have a 10:30 meeting at Cafe Luxembourg with my friend Stephanie. I like the white omelette—but I like everything there.

HL:  What’s your ideal meal?
ML: Salad with rocket. A piece of fish—when it’s fresh, it’s the best for me. For dessert, I love galaktaboureko, kaitifi. I always like to have dessert—and some Greek coffee.

HL: Where do you like to dine on a special occasion?
ML: In my own restaurant in the wine room.

HL: What’s your favorite NYC neighborhood?
ML: The Upper West Side. I love New York and ever since I came here I feel like I belong. I feel like I’m in my village—people say hello and I feel like I know everyone. It’s not a matter of success…but I love when people come back, and some people have come here 30 times. They send their friends. It’s a community. It’s their restaurant.

HL: What do you like to do in NYC on your days off?
ML: I have no days off, but I like to sneak in a museum. I love the Museum of Natural History, the Guggenheim and I also try to find time to go to the Children’s Museum.

HL: What’s your favorite vacation destination?
ML: Greece. Every corner is for me. Every corner is beautiful. Its history, its food. You can find different things all the time

HL: What’s your most memorable meal?
ML: I enjoy meals every day, with different friends, different family members. I enjoy every day.

HL: What are your five favorite ingredients?
ML: Olive oil, krokos kozanis (Greek saffron), honey, anthotyro from Crete, oregano from MountTaygetos.

Loi is located at 208 W. 70th between West End and Amsterdam Avenues; 212-875-8600.

Maria’s outdoor lamb roast will be held on Sunday, April 15th from 12-1pm. Then from 1-9pm, Loi will be open with a special prix fixe Easter feast menu in the dining room. A la carte is also available.

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Visit Haute Dining columnist Tracey Ceurvels’ blog, The Busy Hedonist for food + travel inspiration.