By Jo Rittey

Spitaki means ‘little house’ in Greek and that’s exactly what owner John Ghionis wanted to create in his Fairfield restaurant; a little Greek home away from home. I sat down for a chat with John over the most delicious souvlaki I have ever eaten.


First things first, we get the whole souvlaki versus gyros versus kebab out the way. Well almost. It’s complicated. Gyro means ‘round’ so it’s literally the meat that goes around on the vertical rotisserie. So if you ask for gyro, you just get the meat. The souvlaki is the gyro meat wrapped in the pita. In Melbourne, you can ask for a kebab and get a souvlaki, as in meat wrapped in bread, but in Greece, the kebab is just the minced meat on a skewer. Sorted. “Except,” says John, “everyone has their own language around this food. Even in Greece you could ask for one thing in one city and in another city, it’s something different.” Sigh. John goes on to say that, “in Greece the pita bread isn’t the same and traditionally there was no lettuce. They’ve actually just started using lettuce, but they always put chips in. I try to be as authentic as possible.”


It feels authentic here, actually it feels like YiaYia’s. There is even a 70s Greek soap opera playing on the television. John has done the fit out himself with a black and white photo of his parents dancing filling one wall and a multitude of photos of friends and family filling the opposite one.


John has a phrase he likes to use to sum up his attitude, #nomalakies. For John this means no bullshit. “When I went to Greece, they’ve gone a bit backward. They’re using gas, rather than charcoal and they don’t hand cut the chips any more. They’re too lazy and use frozen chips. I was disappointed and thought, ours is better. I’m doing what was authentic 15 to 20 years ago.”


When asked whether he’s a purist, John laughs. “I’m a tastiest. Not a purist. If they were doing something new and I thought it tasted really great, I’d do that.


No one would champion the flavour of gas rotisserie meat, as opposed to charcoal; it’s just because it’s easier or more consistent. If it tasted better, I’d use gas. I think charcoal tastes better.”


John also explains the common Melbourne misconception that a lamb souvlaki is the way to go when you have souvlaki. “They just don’t really do lamb gyros in Greece, it’s all pork.” You can order a lamb souvlaki at Spitaki, but, as the menu points out, it’s lamb mince.


The salad is Greek style (no iceberg lettuce fillers) and the Loukoumades, tiny fried doughnuts, are made with traditional honey, walnuts and cinnamon or extra toppings like Nutella, mascarpone, sokofreta and pistachio.


Having owned numerous food venues, John is all about hospitality. When his friends suggested years ago that he open a restaurant, he initially thought he’d have no idea how to do that. “But then I just thought I’ll just do what I would want in a restaurant.” And I think that’s the key to his success.


“I’m just myself having a laugh.” says John “We get Greeks coming in and saying at last there are no flower garnishes and all that. That has its place and people love it but I don’t think it lasts. I’d rather be here.”


Spitaki Soulvaki

115 Station Street, Fairfield 3078

Mon – Sun 11:30am – 8:30pm



Jo is a French teacher, a freelance writer and needs good coffee to start her day. Armed with an exotic New Zealand accent and a winning (hopefully) smile, she likes nothing better than roaming the streets of the northside in search of new and old food-related wonders.


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