When Peggy Maglaris-Kopley’s husband, Demetri, was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma four years ago, the news rocked the couple’s world. Immediately, Maglaris-Kopley changed the family’s diet, opting for organic, additive-free foods. Today, Demetri’s cancer is in remission and Maglaris-Kopley believes this is due, at least in part, to the lifestyle changes made during her husband’s illness.
The event was also the impetus for Maglaris-Kopley to open an ecofriendly restaurant along the Fox River, in downtown St. Charles, called prasino, which is Greek for “green.” The eatery, which opened in September at 51 S. First St., is part of a trend toward environmentally-friendly restaurants that use locally-produced ingredients. The diverse menu features organic produce, sustainable seafood, hormone- and antibiotic-free meats and many gluten-free items.
“Peggy says, ‘If it can help my husband get over cancer, it can help the general public,’” says John Parker, general manager.
Maglaris-Kopley, whose father owns Yia Yia’s Pancake House in North Riverside, has another prasino restaurant in LaGrange, and plans to open a third location in Wicker Park, as early as June.The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week and has a warm but sophisticated atmosphere. Most everything about it is unique, including the lowercase “p” in its name. Light fixtures are made of corrugated cardboard and empty wine bottles; tabletop wood was recovered from the demolition of Sportman’s Park Racetrack in Cicero; the floor is made from oak planks reclaimed from a torn down barn; and an eight-person table was made from a fallen tree.
“It’s a new restaurant for the new century that focuses on food that is clean, yet delicious,” Parker says. “It also made perfect sense to go the ecofriendly route. Most people who are interested in organic foods are also of the mindset to protect mother earth and be careful with the environment.”
Most of the restaurant’s organic produce, including peppers and tomatoes, are grown at Knutson’s Country Harvest, in Newark, Ill. That farm also houses beehives that produce honey used in several dishes on the prasino menu.
Parker says executive chef Scott Halverson has worked in private clubs and hotels from California to Texas. “We’re really pleased with the regional influences Scott has brought to the table here,” Parker says.
The breakfast menu includes eggs Benedict, a variety of skillets, and an almond croissant French toast with crème brulee batter, sweet cream and fresh strawberries. Popular lunchtime fare includes salads, wraps and whole wheat flatbreads. Dinner entrees range from an Alaskan black cod over ginger-carrot puree to braised beef short ribs doused in truffle mushroom Cabernet sauce.
Dessert means options like molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream or banana bread pudding. A juice bar serves up smoothies, juices, coffee, tea, wines and cocktails – all organic, of course.
“Initially, when people hear about a place that serves organic food, they jump to conclusions about it only being vegetarian,” Parker says. “While we offer plenty of healthy items, by no means are we just vegetarian. The No. 1 item on our menu is the Niman Ranch beef burger.” Niman Ranch sells antibiotic and hormone-free meat and emphasizes humane care of animals raised on sustainable ranches throughout the United States.
Along with healthful, tasty dishes and a friendly atmosphere, Parker says customers can expect quality service when they visit prasino. “We want customers to walk in and be bowled over by big smiles, warm and friendly hellos and thank-yous,” he says. “We go out of our way to make sure the service matches the food.” ❚