Chef Dino Moniodis has spent every summer of his life on the quiet Greek island of Chios, an idyllic Aegen outcropping steeped in ancient history and populated with just over 50,000 inhabitants.
When he describes it, you can almost see the azure waters and white sand beaches where children romp freely — unless they’re sent to catch fresh seafood for the family taverna.
Alongside dozens of aunts, uncles and cousins, Moniodis grew up working in family tavernas, learning to tenderize octopus and clean fish on the beach. Bringing that sense of family and food together, the 29-year-old chef recently opened his third food business, Zimi on Mission, in Santa Rosa.
Passionate about bringing the Old World flavors of Greece to Sonoma County, the young entrepreneur has grown a small restaurant empire from a tiny food trailer (Dino’s Greek Food) into two brick-and-mortar restaurants — wood-fired pizza ovens at The Block in Petaluma and now, Zimi on Mission. He’s developing another restaurant, Taverna Lithi, at the forthcoming Livery food hall in Sebastopol.
“It’s been a combination of fate and good timing,” Moniodis said. A graduate of Santa Rosa Junior College’s culinary program, Moniodis helped to open Petaluma’s now-shuttered Slamburger and was a former cook at Willi’s Wine Bar. He honed his pizza-making skills at Rosso in Santa Rosa but didn’t consider striking out on his own until his father’s death in 2018.
“When my dad was sick, I was his caregiver. We talked about opening a Greek restaurant, and after he passed, I just didn’t have anything to lose. I saw what Sonoma County needed,” he said. So, in 2019, he launched the yellow gyro and souvlaki mobile kitchen that quickly became a destination wherever it showed up.
Moniodis has temporarily parked the trailer to focus on expanding his menus in Petaluma and Santa Rosa, but it’s his newest venture, Zimi on Mission, that truly has us excited.
It’s part Greek deli, part pizzeria and part nona’s kitchen. Moniodis and his partner, Sarah Kenney, aren’t forcing a definition of their Bennett Valley venture.
Zimi, meaning dough, shows that pizzas are certainly their bread and butter, with Greek-inspired toppings on their twice-cooked crusts. But the scratch-made dolmas, flaky spinach spanikopita and pastichio, a sort of Greek lasagna, along with daily specials, really hit the mark.
Fluent in Greek, Farsi (his mother is Iranian) and Spanish, Moniodis gracefully brings together these disparate cultures in his kitchen, with dishes like a Mexican-inspired corn pizza with cotija cheese, rice and beef stuffed grape leaves inspired by his mother and mezze plates with imported feta, pickled onions, pita and olives.
“In Greece, the culture is food. We sit around all day and have mezze,” he said of the all-day snacking that’s traditional on the Greek islands.
Seeing a lack of authentic Greek food in Sonoma County, he’s made it a one-man mission to share the flavors of his culture, one gyro at a time.
Pizzas have a red (tomato), white (creamy garlic) or green base (pesto). Moniodis piles on unexpected toppings that somehow work exactly right.
Phoenix, $21, $29: Smoked mozzarella, chorizo, pepperoncinis, pepperoni and dried oregano with lime and cilantro make for smoky, earthy and spicy flavors cooled by creamy drizzles of creme fraiche.
Elote, $18, $26: This seasonal pizza is what made us fall in love with Moniodis’ mix of unlikely toppings on a crisp twice-cooked crust. A chipotle adobo base is topped with nutty fontina cheese, fire-roasted corn, cotija cheese, lime, cilantro and a dash of Cholula hot sauce.
Kratos, $20, $28: Named for the god of war, this pizza is no shrinking violet. Spicy Italian sausage takes center stage, with fire-blistered cherry tomatoes and balsamic vinegar adding a high-hat hit of acid. Figs and olives cool everything and provide a hint of sweetness.
Gyro, $15: This is the gyro you’ve been looking for. A warm pita stretches around fresh cucumber and tomatoes with tart feta cheese, tzatziki sauce and shaved meat (a lamb and beef mix), with an oven-roasted potato wedge substituting for fries.
Trahili Panini: House-smoked chicken is slathered with spicy Thai peanut sauce, cilantro and pickled shiitake mushrooms.
Spanakopita, $8.50: Endlessly flaky layers of phyllo are studded with spinach and cheese in this Greek classic.
Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday – Thursday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Monday. 500 Mission Blvd., Santa Rosa. eatzimionmission.com