By Vasilis Papoutsis
LOS ANGELES, CA – Brothers Thomas and Dimitris Houndalas are continuing a family tradition in the hospitality business that started over a hundred years ago.
Older brother Thomas studied hotel management and arrived in the United States in1982, and worked as the Maitre’ Dat the exclusive Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles before opening Le Petit Greek restaurant in1987 with Dimitri.
Located in the historic Larchmont Village that was developed at the late1800s as a streetcar suburb of Los Angeles,it is now surrounded by the well-maintained historic homes in the nearby affluent neighborhood of Hancock Park.
The restaurant was very small then – thus the name Le Petit, with only 10 tables – but it quickly made a name for itself because of the tasty Greek cuisine.
Dimitris, who was raised in the restaurant business, had a love for music and studied classical guitar at the London School of Music and Drama, but eventually returned to the family business.
At the restaurant’s tenth anniversary in1997, it expanded, and for the first timeon Larchmont Boulevard an outdoor patio overlooking the cozy street was added, and the restaurant attained the aura of a Greek/European cafe.
The dining room is elegant and simple and the walls have black and white photographs from Greece, and family portraits. The main attraction is the cuisine, as the Houndalases’ commitment to high quality food is the hallmark of their philosophy.
Dimitris’ passion for food is evident from the start. “We always strive to offer the healthiest, most organic version of food at the best possible price. After all our ancestors taught us that a healthy mind should reside in a healthy body.”
He writes a health blog that is educational and informative. “Everybody claims to serve organic food but that claim isnot entirely true most of the time. Commercial beef is grass fed the first few months but grain fed afterwards.
Cows cannot digest grain but it adds extra pounds and more money for the producer. True organic beef has to be grass finished and that is the only beef we serve here.”That commitment in food excellence earned the restaurant the prestigious Open Table Diners’ Choice Winner Award in 2016.Commitment to excellence of course requires hard work. Dimitri is up before sunrise every day to shop for fresh organic produce, meat and fish from carefully selected farms that he has done business with for a long time. He only buys chicken from farms that raised them outdoors. His calamari comes fresh from Santa Barbara and the whitefish from Lake Superior.
One of his specialties dishes is the delicious plaki, with blue nose sea bass from New Zealand cooked with shallots, fresh tomatoes, rosemary and Robola white wine. “We cook a certain amount of these specialty dishes every day.When the last order is gone, that is it for the day” he said.The signature of the house is the delectable baby rack of lamb that simply melts in your mouth.The restaurant offers an award winning wine list from all over the world and an unparalleled selection of Greek wines. The history, menu, and extensive wine list can be viewed at lepetitgreek.com.
Because of the restaurant’s location near the Paramount studios and production companies,spotting and even sitting next to a celebrity is a good bet.
A plethora of stars who have visited the restaurant include Tom Hanks,Jennifer Aniston (and other castmembers of Friends), Sean Connery, Billy Zane, Adrien Brody, and the late Telly Savalas.
Actually, LePetit Greek is not the family’s first restaurant in the United States. Patriarch Thomas Houndalas came to the United States in the late 1890s. “He was 12 or 13 years old when he came here by boat. He paid half the ticket in advance and he had to work onboard to pay for the other half.” From those humble beginnings, the family accented to ownership of the famous San Francisco Cliff House with ocean views, great ambiance, and food. The restaurant today is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation area operated by the National Park Service.
The family also owned a restaurant near the old town of the historic city of Nafplion,Greece’s first capital. A taverna with a capacity of 1,000 seats and live music playing nightly that was operated by the family. In the 1970s the taverna left the old neighborhood of Arvanitia for a picturesque new location on the bay.
Today the family has expanded to Santorini: ”My father bought this old Catholic monastery from a businessman who had attempted to renovate it but could not finish it. We completed the renovations and it started as a Bed & Breakfast. With additional upgrades it now operates as a boutique hotel” Dimitris said. Thomas operates the hotel.
It has direct views of Nea Kameni volcano and Thirasia Island and at the rooftop terrace guests enjoy healthy homemade breakfast while enjoying the incredible views. It is also a great spot to enjoy the famous Santorini sunsets, a huge attraction to newlyweds and romantics from across the globe.The guest rooms maintain the original architecture and no rooms are alike. The hotel is nearby the crowded cobblestone streets and shops but guests can still enjoy tranquility while enjoying the views.
Whether visiting the restaurant in Larchmont Village with a view of the Hollywood sign or the Santorini hotel, one will experience the warmth of Greek hospitality and the delicious taste of Greek food.