It’s Greek to me.
That was my first thought when Stasha and I decided to go to dinner prior to attending the opening night performance of the hit musical Mamma Mia at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
I’ve seen Mamma Mia before and love the concept. The show takes more than 20 memorable songs by the iconoclastic pop group ABBA and weaves the lyrics into a fun, clever storyline about a single mother living on a remote Greek island.
“What do you say we keep with the concept and dine at a Greek restaurant tonight,” I suggested to Stasha.
“Is there one in Newport Beach?”
“Well, the city seems to have everything else, so we must have Greek. But let me ask the Twitter universe and send an ‘S.O.S.’ tweet about where to dine for Greek food.”
I sent the tweet, and minutes later we had a reply: TheWholePita.com, which turned out to be the former name of Thasos Greek Island Grille in Fashion Island.
“That looks good,” said Stasha as she perused the menu on their website. “The dishes are based on family recipes, and the menu is loaded with what looks like truly authentic dishes. Do you think we should eat here before the show?”
“’I Do! I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do…,’” I warbled. My bad ABBA impression was not lost on Stasha.
“’One of Us’ is going to be in trouble if he sings ABBA songs all night.”
“‘That’s The Name of the Game,’” I sang.
“Game over,” she said as we made our way to Thasos, which we learned borrows its name from an actual Greek Island.
“I need to use an ATM first—I need ‘Money, Money, Money.’”
Stasha gave me a pained look and shook her head.
Thasos is located amid several other small restaurants in Fashion Island’s Atrium Court, so the Greek ambiance and décor is limited. The food, however, is another story.
“Moussaka, pasticcio, falafels, gyro…this certainly sounds authentic,” I said to the girl at the counter, whose name we learned was Renata. “This is our first time here, so what do you suggest?”
“The Thasos bundle feast is very popular,” replied Renata. “You choose a meat, we place it over a pita with tzatziki sauce, tomatoes and onions, and you choose two sides. The other popular one is the Taverna platter, which comes with two meats over red or brown rice plus two sides.”
“What are the seasonal veggies?” asked Stasha.
“Mushrooms, cucumber, and several other seasonal vegetables, sautéed in olive oil.”
“’Knowing Me, Knowing You,’ we’ll be sharing the food,” I said to Stasha.
We placed our order and soon were savoring several delicious dishes.
“This is a lot of food for the price,” I said between bites of my lamb-stuffed pita.
“I’m getting full, do you want the rest?” asked Stasha.
“’Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’”
Stasha stared at me.
“Chris, I know this is only the first day of summer, but it could be ‘Our Last Summer’ if you keep that up.”
We finished our dinner and drove to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
“This place is packed,” I stated to Stasha as we made our way to our seats. “Looks like Mamma Mia has retained its popularity.
The lights dimmed, the music started, and we got caught up in the story of a young girl on the eve of her wedding day who concocts a scheme to invite three of her mother’s old boyfriends (one of whom she thinks might be her father) to her wedding.
I marveled at the way the songs and lyrics, were used to tell the story. I was also reminded of just how many hits ABBA had charted.
“That was fun,” I said as we strolled out of the Segerstrom Center. “Good voices, great costumes, and classic music.”
We walked past Leatherby’s Café Rouge at the nearby Segerstrom Concert Hall. I paused and snapped my fingers.
“I just remembered that Café Rouge has a Mamma Mia-inspired Mediterranean menu this week,” I said. “It includes the ‘Dancing Queen’ salad with cucumber, tomato, feta, and olives, the ‘Chick-ita’ lemon oregano chicken breast with crispy falafel, and the ‘Abba” – Zaba’ peanut butter sponge topped with vanilla panna cotta and peanut butter ice cream.”
“Now you tell me,” laughed Stasha.
“Well, if you’re a ‘Super Trouper,’ we can see Mamma Mia again and dine at Café Rouge. The show runs through this weekend.”
“Don’t forget Orange County’s annual ‘A Taste of Greece’ festival is this weekend,” Stasha reminded me. “It runs June 24, 25, and 26 at St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church in Irvine, and will showcase traditional Greek dishes, pastries, and feature a wine ‘Taverna,’ offering Greek wine and beer. Plus, there will be live music, authentic Greek dancing with lessons, and boutique booths reminiscent of the Plaka, a well-known picturesque historical neighborhood of Athens.”
“We should do the Greek Festival, Café Rouge and Mamma Mia,” I said excitedly. “It will be a full-on Greek experience!”
Stasha rolled her eyes. “Okay, Trela, you win—but if we go, no more songs. You’ve already sung the entire soundtrack for me and my ears can’t take it anymore.”
“The Winner Takes It All…”
“I Have a Dream…” sang Stasha.
“Next time we go see a play, it won’t be a musical.”