Neighborhood Kitchens

Portland, Maine and Emilitsa

By Margarita Martinez

One might say that a visit to Portland is not complete without a Maine lobster roll along the waterfront. As a fervent lover of lobster rolls, I whole-heartedly agree and yet I can't imagine visiting Portland without taking in all of the unique independently-owned businesses. What I love most about beautiful Portland, ME, besides the waterfront and ample seafood, is the city's DIY attitude. The Portland community is incredibly supportive of original and creative small businesses. There are scarcely any chain stores present on, and the streets off of Commercial Street. Instead, there are lots of unique places to shop for clothing and accessories, “Gorgeous Gelato,” fine art, freshly caught seafood, and other locally sourced commodities. Even the local food markets all seem to offer locally-produced specialty items, local produce, and, in one case, an incubator kitchen for local potential restaurant owners to test out their concepts on a hungry audience. I am talking a lot about food, huh? Well, that's no surprise, because Portland is such a foodie destination! The city has an amazing year-round farmers' market on Wednesdays and Saturdays and an incredible array of fabulous restaurants that take advantage of Portland's abundant seafood and locally-grown food.

Margarita and Chef Demos Regas in his restaurant Emilitsa in Portland, MaineOne such restaurant is Emilitsa, where I got to go behind the scenes. Emilitsa serves scrumptious upscale Greek comfort food. The restaurant was opened about five years ago by two brothers, John and Chef Demos Regas, whose parents owned a restaurant in Minnesota. After years of pursuing other careers, the brothers Regas decided they could no longer resist the pull of serving Greek cuisine after being disappointed with the Greek eateries they encountered in New England. However, they did something different with their restaurant in Portland. The brothers decided to craft their menu around the recipes of their mother Emilitsa with artful preparation and the best possible ingredients. Continuing the familial culinary legacy is Chef Regas's son Niko, who has come back to New England to cook in his father's kitchen after years of culinary training and working in upscale restaurants around the country. Chef Demos Regas's face beams with pride when he talks about his son.

Now, if you have read this blog before, you know how much I LOVE small plates, which is why I LOVE going to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern eateries where the culture is all about enjoying lots of different dishes before moving on to the entree. Greek cuisine is no exception. We started out with one of my favorite Greek mezethes, Melitzanosalata, or smoked eggplant dip. I live in an apartment and do not have access to a grill and was very appreciative to learn Chef Regas's tip for roasting whole eggplant over a stovetop flame (hint: this baking tool makes roasting vegetables over the flame a far less messy experience).

He made sure to serve the melitzanosalata with some delicious crusty bread from a bakery down the street. Another concept Chef Regas introduced to me on my visit was the idea of “Philoxenia.” This Greek word encapsulates the Greek notion of hospitality. It goes back to the small town way of life where no one is a stranger for long, for if you pass by someone's home, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, you will be invited in to sit around a table and partake in the many dishes that your host will be serving. Now that is my idea of hospitality.

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About Neighborhood Kitchens

Building on a 35-year history of producing Latino and multicultural programming, WGBH’s award winning La Plaza team has a new offering — Neighborhood Kitchens, a series about the exploration of culture through food. Every week the show offers a unique window into immigrant communities in New England.

Saturdays at 4pm on WGBH 2
Fridays at 7:30pm on WGBH 44

About the Author
Margarita Martinez Margarita Martinez
Margarita Martinez grew up in the Bronx, NY and Ossining, NY with a Puerto Rican father and a Franco-American mother. She now calls New England home. Margarita has always had an insatiable appetite for travel and food. She made her first empanada as a teenager visiting Argentina, satisfied her sweet tooth with poffertjes and stroopwafels while studying in Holland, engorged herself on Thai street food for a month in Bangkok, and continues to search for authentic international cuisines in the Northeast. Margarita loves to discover new ingredients, flavors, and cooking approaches that she can bring to her own home kitchen.

On the Go

In each episode, host Margarita Martínez visits a different ethnic restaurant and learns three delicious recipes from the chef. She also explores the restaurant’s neighborhood, discovering hidden gems along the way. Join her as she learns about new ingredients, new cultures, and new neighborhoods. ¡Hasta pronto!

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Find a Neigbhorhood Kitchen
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Margarita's Neighborhood Visits

»Boston: Bristol Lounge
»Boston's South End: Orinoco, Teranga and Oishii
»Boston's Back Bay: Casa Romero
»Boston's North End: Taranta
»Roxbury: Merengue
»Boston's Beacon Hill: Scampo
»All Around Boston: Mei Mei Street Kitchens
»Cambridge: Muqueca, Oleana, and Sandrine's
Somerville: Dosa Temple
»Lawrence: Cafe Azteca
»Lowell: Simply Khmer

»Fresh from the Fish Market
»Jamaica Plain: Tres Gatos
»Dorchester: Pho Le and Cafe Polonia
»Medford: Bistro 5
»Portland, ME: Emilitsa
»Newport, RI: Tallulah on Thames
»Pawtucket, RI: Rasoi


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