TRAVERSE CITY — Opa Uptown owners Paul and Brigette Barbas, head chef Brian Maloney and pastry chef Renee Myers have put their heads together to create a fusion of European flavors from Italy, Greece, France, Poland and more.
Each with their own culinary specialties, the four worked together to create an eclectic menu of ethnic dishes at the recently opened Traverse City restaurant.
“We all like to bounce ideas off of each other,” said Maloney, whose forte is French, Italian and Spanish cuisine.
The Barbas know Greek food. In addition, Brigette is an expert in Polish cuisine and teaches a Polish cooking class through the Northwestern Michigan College Extended Education division. Myers was a pastry chef at Travino and worked with Maloney for seven years at the now shuttered restaurant.
“Brian and Renee are bringing so much to the table,” said Paul Barbas. “Then the question became how can we incorporate Greek and Polish with their specialties?”
Take Uptown’s versions of Saganaki, which refers to Greek dishes prepared in a small frying pan. While they serve the iconic Greek flaming cheese, they have added a couple of their own spins by creating a “category” with offerings that include a Shrimp Saganaki appetizer combining tiger shrimp, onions, feta and marinara and a Meatball Duo Saganaki, which incorporates Greek and Italian meatballs with marinara, Asiago and feta cheese.
Maloney brought his knowledge of pasta to the table and it shows in a dish they call “European Fusion.” It incorporates the flavors of Italy, Greece and Poland by combining grilled chicken, artichoke hearts, onions, tomatoes, feta and a Polish kluski pasta tossed with white wine and sun-dried tomato sauce.
You can also sample salmon with a Mediterranean spin and pierogis stuffed with potato and cheddar, sautéed in butter and amped up with diced pancetta and caramelized onion.