Restaurateur Dimitri Kallianis’ creativity and passion helped The Shanty restaurant in Wadsworth gain regional and national attention. Expanding on that creativity, Kallianis also has launched an international olive oil company called Lonely Olive Tree Organics.
“My passion is to create and continue to evolve. My parents and grandparents have taught my siblings and I from a young age that there is no secret to success — hard work is essential in anything you want to accomplish in life,” Kallianis says.
Lonely Olive Tree Organics was inspired by Kallianis’ appreciation for the organically grown, non-genetically modified early-harvest olive oil produced by the olive trees his family has owned for five generations. The trees are grown at the highest elevation of Mount Taygetus in the historic territory of Sparta, Greece.
THE BENEFITS OF OLIVE OIL Olive oil is an integral part of the Mediterranean diet, which has been found to have many health benefits. Those who regularly consume olive oil are at less risk for cardiovascular diseases, high cholesterol and even some types of cancer. Growing demand for olive oil in the U.S. has led to an explosion of brands, as well as consumer confusion over the types and quality of oils on the market.
The olive oil that is the most beneficial to one’s health is classified as Extra Virgin, which is produced from the first pressing of the olive and is processed without using chemicals. Depending on the country of origin (Greece, Italy and Spain are the world’s leading producers) various olive oils may have a rich gold to greenish-gold color, and a fruity, spicy or herbal taste and aroma.
True extra virgin olive oils also will have an acidity level under 0.9 percent. “I urge consumers to study product labels and to know that it’s important to look for an acidity level of less than one percent when purchasing olive oil, because the higher the acidity, the shorter the shelf-life, which makes it less health beneficial,” Kallianis says. “My family’s organic extra virgin green olive oil has an FDA certified acidity level of 0.3 percent.”
Not only is the Kallianis family’s organic olive oil ranked in the highest categories compared to others, it also is unique within the country of Greece. Their olives are handpicked in early winter, cold-pressed within 24 hours and bottled within a 10 mile radius of the pressing mill in the mountains of Sparta, Laconia Greece.
“For as long as I can remember, my father has been bringing over batches of our olive oil to use in our restaurants,” Kallianis says. “To be honest, I thought all olive oil was like ours, but as I grew older and began cooking, I learned that wasn’t the case. This inspired me to travel back to Greece regularly and start my own company distributing our olive oil. I take a lot of pride in expanding the distribution of Lonely Olive Tree Organics. I’m proud that celebrity chefs and home cooks from all over America use and appreciate our products. We harvest with purpose and it has proven successful.”
In addition to the organic olive oil, Lonely Olive Tree Organics also produces mountain-grown, natural black olives and a pure olive oil soap called Nota.
These gourmet products are sold in over 5,200 locations internationally through retail and food service distribution. They can be purchased locally at The Shanty Restaurant, Captain Porky’s Restaurant, Mama K’s Restaurant, and local north shore retailers, including Mariano’s Fresh Markets and Sunset Foods Grocery Stores as well as through Amazon.com.
FUTURE EXPANSION Organic olive oil distribution is not the only Kallianis business poised to expand, however. The family’s pair of restaurants — The Shanty and Captain Porky’s — located next to one another on Wadsworth Road and Route 41 in Wadsworth, are also expanding.
“I believe The Shanty’s success is due in part to our creative, ever-changing cuisine and our culinary team, which is currently serving our 11th menu in nine years,” says Kallianis. Once located on the east side of town on Wadsworth Road, Captain Porky’s moved next door to The Shanty in 2010.
“Captain Porky’s is run by my father, Dino, along with my brother, George, and sister, Notah. Next door is The Shanty, which is run by my mom, Elaine, and I. That’s the family dynamic of the two restaurants and we have a great staff who we feel are a part of our family as well,” says Kallianis.
This year the Kallianis family will break ground on another Shanty expansion which will contain a banquet facility, outdoor seating, a larger bar area and a kitchen roughly three times the size of the current cooking space. The expansion will be constructed of local wood and stone and have a character all its own. The menu will include favorite signature items from The Shanty’s menus, as well as new offerings that have been developed exclusively for the new space, which will open in 2016.
“Our family, staff, and Wadsworth residents are excited about the expansion,” says Kallianis. “I’m happy to say that the space The Shanty currently occupies will not be changed and the new addition will have access from The Shanty, providing additional seating, more bar space, private party rooms, outdoor seating, and more parking.
“The expanded kitchen will give our restaurants more space to continue the ever-changing evolution of our menus. My goal is to always improve and to continue getting better. I believe that we are better now than we were five years ago, and we’ll be even better five years from now. There is always room for improvement and learning in our business,” Kallianis says.
HEALTHY ADDITIONS One direction growth will likely take place at The Shanty is an increase in adding local, farm-fresh food to the menu.
“My father also is a farmer in Bristol, Wis. He believes in using organic, natural and locally-produced foods when available, and that has filtered down into our restaurants,” says Kallianis. “At The Shanty, we serve items from my father’s farm on a daily basis, such as natural, certified lamb burgers and organic goat cheese used in our wonton appetizer. We also serve specialty, naturally-raised beef from a farm in Libertyville and free-range organic certified eggs from Tempel Farms across the street from The Shanty. We have a handful of local farmers who supply our restaurants with seasonal ingredients and we are always interested in finding more,” says Kallianis.
When dining at The Shanty after 4 p.m., one can experience the Kallianis’ organic extra virgin olive oil first-hand as it’s paired with a complimentary table setting of roasted red bell pepper hummus topped with crushed black olives and freshly baked bread made in-house. This starter is an exact replica of what the farmers eat during olive harvest season in Sparta, Greece.
“Our family is very passionate about the future of our olive oil company and our restaurants,” says Kallianis. “We appreciate everyone’s continued support over the years.”