Well, except for the chef.
Marty Cattaneo admits he’d never really cooked Greek food before taking over the head chef position at the high-end Dio Deka in Los Gatos nearly two years ago.
But that didn’t stop this talented chef who has cooked with David Kinch at Manresa in Los Gatos, Jeremy Fox at Ubuntu in Napa and helped in the development of the cookbook, “Mourad: New Moroccan” (Artisan) by Mourad Lahlou of Aziza in San Francisco. In fact, if you catch a rerun of “Iron Chef America” on the Food Network, you’ll spot Cattaneo in the background as one of Lahlou’s sous chefs in his battle.
Because of the similarities between Moroccan and Greek cuisines, Cattaneo felt comfortable enough stepping into this challenging role. Plus, it helped that he studied every Greek cookbook he could get his hands on.
He doesn’t consider what he does at Dio Deka traditional Greek food by any means. But after getting a chance to experience his food as a recent guest of the restaurant, I can attest that it’s downright delicious and inspired, nevertheless.
After weathering a few chef changes over the past five years, Dio Deka remains as popular as ever. Even on a Wednesday night, the dining room was packed. There were even two private parties going on at the same time. Located in the Hotel Los Gatos, it’s a loud, lively restaurant, but with quiet, subtle touches like the fresh rosemary sprig tucked into your napkin at the table.
The menu at Dio Deka is an interesting mix. It’s part steakhouse that serves up USDA Prime grilled simply over mesquite. Even before Cattaneo started there, Kinch raved about the steaks at Dio Deka, so you know they’ve got to be pretty special.
So is the Greek side of the menu. Some of the signature items have been on the menu since the restaurant opened, including keftethakia, lamb meatballs flavored with a salty Greek cheese, and plevrakia, mesquite-grilled baby back pork riblets that are super tender with an almost Asian five-spice flavor from Greek spices, Asian pear and ouzo. Order the pikilia ($16 per person), the appetizer medley, to sample both of those, along with beef cheeked-stuffed dolmathes and dainty crisp phyllo triangles of spanakotiropita that are filled with spinach, and Greek sheep and goat milk cheeses.
Warm wedges of oregano-flecked flatbread arrive at the table for dunking in olive oil.
This is the place to venture into Greek wines, with so many offered on the wine list. A glass of Malagousia Gerovassiliou, Epanomi, Makedonia, Greece, 2010 ($13) had bright minerality and just enough oak to round it out.
Octopus ($16) is a specialty. It’s charred, leaving the exterior crunchy but the interior tender and meaty. Romesco sauce adds a hit of spiciness and toasted hazelnuts add a rich nuttiness.
Melopeponi ($10) is a study in melons. Raw raw, compressed and pickled, they are sweet, juicy, tangy and just a bit savory from manouri cheese and chocolate mint.
Tsipoura ($34) is a whole Mediterranean dorade served on the bone with the head. Seasoned with salt and olive oil, then grilled over mesquite, it reminds you of just how good such a simple preparation of fish can be.
Ippoglossos ($34) is an inventive preparation of halibut — served with lightly cooked tomato, lipstick-red sweet Jimmy Nardello peppers and caramelized feta, which gives the whole dish an unexpected creaminess.
Ktenia ($32) brings a generous portion of huge, plump diver scallops, seared until beautifully caramelized on the outside. Underneath, farro with caramelized yogurt, charred corn and a dash of Meyer lemon. Strewn on top are jungle peanuts from the Amazon that are smaller than domestic ones.
There are a range of side dishes to choose from, too. I already want to try to replicate the orzo ($8) at home. Cooked with burnt butter and Myzithra cheese, it’s extraordinarly rich, toasty and nutty tasting.
Dessert goes way beyond baklava, though you can enjoy a fine one of those, if you like. At the server’s suggestion, I went for the lefki sokolatina ($10), a parfait of sorts of white chocolate and blueberries with passion fruit granita and blueberry jam. Rather than layered in a tall glass, this parfait was unmolded on a plate, a beautiful drum-shaped creation in white. Cold, with the sweetness tempered by just enough tartness, the parfait was like so much of the food at Dio Deka — not traditional Greek, but something all together wonderful and memorable on its own.
More: A Visit to Aziza