By Alison Bailin Batz
Photo by Timothy Fox Photography
Growing up in Cyprus, Yianni Ioannou spent his days helping in his family’s local restaurant, quickly falling in love with both the industry and the bright spices of the Mediterranean. He also fell in love with the United States. So much so, he moved to Michigan in his early 20s.
“That’s when I found something I didn’t love – long, cold winters,” Ioannou says. “So, I made my way to Arizona in 2005, initially to attend Arizona State University.”
Phoenix’s 300 days of sunshine suited Ioannou, and he soon found himself busy working at a local Greek restaurant, eventually as general manager, before leaving to help open a burger concept in Tempe in recent years.
“The ultimate dream has always been to open my own modern Mediterranean concept – a full-service dining experience with the flavors Cyprus, Italy, Greece, France, Spain and even the Middle East,” Ioannou says. “And now that’s a reality with KOVO Modern Mediterranean.”
Nearly a year in the making, KOVO, located at the Paradise Village Gateway shopping center, features a wide selection of cuisine from the Mediterranean. In Greek, KOVO means “to carve.” As such, rotisserie meats are predominately displayed in the open kitchen and are served in many entrees. A gorgeous wood-fired oven produces savory pizzas and other wood-fired specialties.
“Because we want to be a place for families, but also for couples and friends to come and relax, we have a major focus on shared plates like housemade hummus and tzatziki, grilled eggplant and halloumi cheese, homemade Greek sausage, and grilled octopus,” Ioannou says.
The wine menu reflects Ioannou’s love of diverse regions with selections from New Zealand, Greece, France, Spain, Italy, South Africa, California and Oregon, while the beer menu features both local favorites like Papago Orange Blossom and Four Peaks Kiltlifter as well as regional and Italian selections. Rounding out the drink front, there are both classic cocktails – think Aperol spritzes and Manhattans – as well as modern twists like berry-infused mojitos and cucumber mules.
The space seats 140-plus people and includes both a large outdoor patio and a wraparound indoor/outdoor bar.
“Our 4,000-square-foot restaurant has a modern design to match the spirit of our menu, with a light-filled, open and airy feel,” Ioannou says. “Influences from the Mediterranean can be found in Moroccan-style tiles, rich blue ocean-inspired accents, and artistic fixtures.”
Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m., KOVO offers $2 off several shared plates and all signature cocktails plus $4 drafts, well drinks and house wines. On Monday and Tuesday after 8 p.m., get a bruschetta board or pizza with a bottle of select wine for $20. KOVO opens at 11 a.m. daily, and a brunch menu will launch by the end of the year.
KOVO Modern Mediterranean, 10625 N. Tatum Boulevard, Phoenix; 602.237.5872; www.kovomedi.com.