UPDATE: The ribbon-cutting ceremony at Yianni’s Taverna scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 26 at 5:30 p.m. has been rescheduled due to inclement weather. The event will now be held Tuesday, Feb. 9 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., with the ribbon-cutting at 5:45 p.m.
It may be mid-winter in Pennsylvania, but inside the whitewashed walls of a landmark Lower Saucon eatery the atmosphere is once again warmly Aegean.
After a nearly three-and-a-half-year closure that ended in November, Yianni’s Taverna is officially celebrating its rebirth by hosting a Grand Reopening & Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony with the Hellertown-Lower Saucon Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Feb. 9.
Yianni’s, a family-owned restaurant featuring authentic Greek food and atmosphere, was forced to close in June 2017 after a devastating fire. The COVID-19 pandemic made their reopening process all the more challenging, but owners Melissa Zannakis and Maria Zannakis Manakos said they are thrilled to once again be part of the local dining scene.
“We had both the worst and best timing,” said Zannakis. “We were supposed to open in May, but COVID restrictions kept the construction closed. Then when we were finally open, they decided to shut indoor dining again.”
But COVID-19 could not defeat the 45-year-old family business. “Restaurateurs are very crafty people and excel at thinking on our feet,” Zannakis noted. “We will survive this and also streamline our business in ways we never thought of before.”
Adaptation has always been a part of the recipe to success at Yianni’s.
In December, the restaurant developed a personalized menu so their loyal patrons could enjoy their favorite Greek dishes at home for the holidays. The service is still available for at-home dining, and has come to be known as the “Yianni’s Experience.” Popular Yianni’s Experience selections include Seafood Pasta and make-your-own souvlaki sandwiches.
“Old regulars can expect a mix of familiar flavors and new,” said Zannakis. “The focus has always been Greek cuisine, because that’s our culture and the food we grew up with.”
The new menu features traditional Greek favorites such as soutzoukakia (beef and lamb meatballs served with tomato and whipped feta) and spanakopita (spinach pie), but this time around the focus is more “oceanic,” she said.
“A lot of people forget that Greece is surrounded by oceans on three sides,” said Zannakis, “so seafood and fresh vegetables are really the mainstay of the cuisine.” Diners can look for delicious seafood, such as salmon tartare and mussels, at Yianni’s.
In addition to its menu, the atmosphere at Yianni’s has been updated and now features more Zannakis family memorabilia, including several family photos.
“Our family members have all had a hand in this restaurant, whether they realize it or not,” said Zannakis. “We have incorporated a lot of tips and tricks we have learned from our family members in the recipes we have today.”
When customers enter the restaurant, they will now see a wall decorated with traditional Greek proverbs, which are taken from a book written by Melissa’s grandfather.
Something patrons may also look forward to enjoying in the future is the restaurant’s redesigned bar, where an enticing drink menu featuring internationally-themed libations will be served once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and bar seating is available again.
The Grand Reopening and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9 (ribbon-cutting at 5:45). To register to attend, visit the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce website or RSVP to LaurenB@LehighValleyChamber.org.
Small plates, wine and cocktails will be available to all, and guests are encouraged to stay for dinner afterward.
“The staff at Yianni’s Taverna has worked tirelessly to ensure they could serve the community that they love once again,” commented Jessica O’Donnell, Executive Vice President for Affiliated Chambers at the GLVCC. “Their efforts have been truly inspiring, and we are both honored and humbled to be a part of this momentous celebration.”
The restaurant is located at 3760 Old Philadelphia Pike, Bethlehem, and is open Tuesday through Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Parking is available in two lots adjacent to the restaurant.