Asteras wins with atmosphere

Chef Seann Gordon, left, and server Steve Olafsen, are part of the team that make diners feel welcome at Asteras. - The News Bulletin
Chef Seann Gordon, left, and server Steve Olafsen, are part of the team that make diners feel welcome at Asteras.
— image credit: The News Bulletin

Once you step into Asteras Greek Taverna, you know you’re in a special place.

From the home-like atmosphere and the Mediterranean decor, to the rich smells of roast lamb, moussaka, spanakopita, grilled calamari and other Greek specialties, an evening at Wesley Street’s Asteras is a dining experience like no other in Nanaimo. The rich selection of wine doesn’t hurt, either.

Having the feeling of going out to dinner only to feel right at home once you get there is exactly how owners Peter Paraskevopoulos and Nicole Sullivan hoped it would be when they started Asteras in 2008.

“It’s all about the people,” said Paraskevopoulos. “It’s not us, it’s the people who come here. We want them to feel at home and we want them to feel like queens and kings.”

Evidently they do. Asteras earned the city’s top spot for best romantic dining place and best Mediterranean dining. It finished second overall for best restaurant in Nanaimo.

Regular customer Colleen Johnston said she thinks she knows why, and it has more to do with the way she is treated.

“I’ve been coming here since it opened. I like the food, it’s fresh, it’s always fresh, and the portions are excellent,” said Johnston. “I always order the lunch special, every time. It’s wonderful.”

Shirley Forwell, a self-appointed foodologist, said her first visit to Asteras demands a return.

“I love to eat,” she said. “I know a good spot when I see it. Now that I know it’s the most romantic spot, I’ll have to find a date and we’ll come back.”

The recipes for each dish originate from Paraskevopoulos’s family on the island of Crete, and Sullivan, with her chef’s background, arranged the menu. The core of the menu has stayed constant, complemented every day with fresh specials.

“I’m the people person,” said Paraskevopoulos, “and Nicole is the food person.”

When the place starts to fill up – and it does most nights – both owners work the floor, chatting with customers and recommending wine matches. The conversations fill the room, and, as with any good Greek restaurant, the energy is notable.

And so is the baklava. Don’t forget to leave some room.

Since Asteras is situated in the Old City Quarter, a post-meal walk through Nanaimo’s heritage community is the perfect way to cap off a romantic evening.

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