By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Feb 23, 2004 at 5:45 AM

{image1}Want to experience your very own big, fat Greek outing? Ouzo Café, a Greek restaurant and bar, is Milwaukee Street's newest offspring and it's just a few weeks old.

Nikki Pappas, the restaurant/bar's "mother," is a friendly, family-oriented Milwaukeean who as a child spent her summers in Greece. Pappas comes by her dining devotion honestly: She is the sister of restaurant maven JoAnne Anton (La Perla and the now-defunct Crabby Al's) and the daughter-in-law of renowned Greek chef and restaurateur, Tom Pappas.

"Our food is a combination of the freshest ingredients, the chef's love and a celebration of life," says the 36-year-old Whitefish Bay native and parent to three children. "My grandparents and parents brought a lot from the old country: recipes, music and the ouzo."

Named for the anise-flavored Greek liqueur, Ouzo Café (776 N. Milwaukee St.) is appropriately titled. Pappas says the colorless, alcoholic beverage "symbolizes the spirit of Greek life," something her warm, already-popular establishment seems to be doing as well.

Pappas' place serves 130 different kinds of ouzo. "I haven't tried them all," she says. "But I know that every bottle tastes a little bit differently."

Ouzo, which can be served as a shot or over ice, is said to be the central part of Greek dining that "begins, carries on and ends" each meal. It is from the city of Mititylini, Greece, near the island of Lesbos and is rumored to have homeopathic abilities to aid in digestion and temper the effects of menopause.

The café serves lunch, dinner and late night eats -- available either in-house or carryout -- until 3 a.m. The menu features classic, affordable Greek dishes, all of which are completely homemade down to the signature yogurt sauce.

"Recently a man who was paralyzed on the left side of his face told me his taste buds on the left side were coming out for the first time," says Pappas. "How sweet is that?"

Greek appetizers, called mezethes, include soups, sandwiches, salads, pan-fried calamari and more. Most are in the $4 range.

Entrees include mousaka (eggplant casserole), pastitso (Greek lasagna), spanakopita (Greek spinach pie that according to Pappas is "the size of a dinner napkin"), grilled lamb chops, Athenian chicken, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), souvlaki (chicken, beef or pork shish-ka-bobs), gyros, broiled octopus, a variety of combo platters and more.

Dinners range in price from $7.25 to $10.95 and come with Greek potatoes drizzled in a special tomato sauce, french fries or rice pilaf.

The menu also features the rare dish, saganaki (flaming cheese) for $4.75 and a "new-to-Milwaukee" spooned fruit dessert called candied orange twist that's a sweet orange peal guaranteed to cleanse the palate. Risoyalo, a Greek rice pudding, and the most famous Greek dessert, baklava -- phyllo dough layered with honey and walnuts -- are also on the menu. Most of the desserts are around $2.25.

"Being Greek means eating Greek and eating Greek means seeing, smelling, tasting and feeling all the love that goes into our food," says Pappas, who explains that Greek culture is all about sharing meals -- and ouzo -- with family and friends.

Ouzo offers a casual, comfortable dining experience in a warm, artistic environment that was created by husband-and-wife team Demetra Copoulos and Tom Littmann, with the help of Jeromy Wolf.

"The colors resemble the sand and the sea of the Greek isles," says Pappas.

Copoulos sculptured a mammoth head of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and the Parthenon horse. "They both turned out so beautiful. We were so lucky to work with such a talented, Greek, local artist," says Pappas. "Demetra really pulled it together. She really brought it to life."

Littman constructed the bar and three waterfalls. He also salvaged church pews to use in lieu of booths, built furniture and plans to add columns and a remodeled entrance in the near future.

"Ouzo Cafe is ancient Greece melding with the 21st century," says Littmann.

For more information, call (414) 272-OUZO or check out

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.