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Introducing: Retsina, a new Greek restaurant down the street from Allan Gardens

(Images: Signe Langford)

Don’t let the name put you off. Retsina—a pine resin–flavoured wine from Greece—has a pretty bad rap, thanks no doubt to the cheap stuff, which can be more like alcoholic spruce beer than fine wine. The good stuff, however, is more subtle, and perfectly suited to the hallmark flavours of Greek cuisine: lemon, oregano and garlic. And it’s the good stuff that’s on offer at Retsina, a simple new 44-seat tavern serving traditional Greek food at Gerrard and Sherbourne.

First-time restaurateur Tom Papachristou enlisted his mother, Nitsa Papachristou, to cook up her mother’s family recipes from back home in Myrtia, Greece (population: 788). The menu items are recognizable Greek staples—moussaka ($17), keftedakia ($9), spanakopita ($8), souvlaki ($16)—presented in unfamiliar ways with high-quality ingredients (Papachristou’s uncles back home send olives and fresh olive oil produced in their family’s grove). There are also nods to North American classics, like the Smash Burger ($12), served on a Wonder bread bun with a Kraft slice and “special sauce.”

The building has been in the family since the 1980s, when Tom’s parents immigrated to Canada. In the ’80s it was a tapas restaurant named Cheers and in the ’90s it was a souvlaki joint called Mr. Souvlaki. The space is fairly nondescript, inside and out, and the walls are still in need of art, but there is a working wood-burning fireplace in the dining room. Once the weather warms up again, the secluded courtyard back patio, all strung up with bare Edison bulbs, will be pressed into service. Papachristou has visions of whole lambs roasting on a spit out there.

Retsina, 209 Gerrard St. E., 416-962-3055,, @retsina209

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  • Streeze

    Visited Retsina last Saturday for dinner…I must say i was surprised of the quality of food they served. Decor was comfortable but not pretentious at all. We had the greek style meet balls, saganaki, pork souvlaki, sauteed shrimp and crispy shrimp….all were delicious. Tom the owner although he doesnt seem to have too much experience in the industry…he was a great host and very friendly. It really shows how much passion he’s putting in the place and his mom is doing a great job with the food…I must say a lot better from many of the greek restaurants on the danforth!!! Retsina restaurant a great little neighbourhod restaurant in cabbage town—will definitely go back

  • colleen tsoukalas

    Have never had a bad meal in a Greek restaurant and this one is definitely one I will visit. I always find good value and enough to take home. A friendly, neighborhood restaurant is one to be cherished.