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BRUNSWICK — Three years after leaving town to open a restaurant in Vermont, Marc Provencher is back where it all began.
Provencher, former chef and co-owner of Trattoria Athena, opened his newest culinary venture, Taverna Khione, in October at 25 Mill St.
With specials like pastitsio – pasta with cinnamon, tomato, ground beef and béchamel sauce – Provencher said he prides himself on serving authentic, seasonal Greek food that isn’t common in the U.S.
“We don’t really put spins on anything,” Provencher said. “It’s Greek, Greek stuff, and not Greek-American stuff you would have here, at a house of pizza or something like that.”
He added he gets his recipes from traveling, reading and talking to other Greek people.
From 2010-2014, Provencher and his former business partner, Tim O’Brien, owned and operated Trattoria Athena, a small Greek and Italian eatery known for its locally sourced menu.
When Provencher decided to move out of the area, he sold his share of the business to O’Brien. Last year, O’Brien closed Trattoria Athena, and now serves Italian cuisine at his establishment at 97 Maine Street.
Provencher said the original location’s availability is part of what made him want to come back, after the landlord reached out to him.
“I guess I wouldn’t have come back if it wasn’t a good location before,” he said. “It was busy for four years, and to find a spot in Brunswick and not have to pay Maine Street rents (is rare).”
Khione, sometimes spelled Chione, is the goddess of snow in Greek mythology. Provencher said he originally wanted to include Cleopatra, a family name, in the restaurant’s title, but customers said it might make people think it was an Egyptian restaurant. He added including “Khione” is appropriate in Maine, which has such cold winters.
“It’s something that’s original, and not naming it after the sea or an island in Greece,” he said.
In addition to the location, Provencher said another reason he decided to return is the quality of ingredients that can be found in Brunswick, with farmer’s markets that he said are “better than Portland’s.”
The chef added he has a solid fan base here; some loyal customers even visited his now-closed restaurant in Vermont during his absence. In addition, he has been able to rehire some of his former staff from Trattoria Athena, which he said has helped smooth the transition back to Maine.
While some traditional menu options from Provencher’s past restaurants can still be found at Taverna Khione – such as grilled lamb chops, or octopus with berries and onions – the owner said his offerings have evolved, too. The new restaurant offers draft beer, for instance, where Trattoria Athena only had wine and some bottle offerings.
“We are (licensed) for full liquor, but we don’t have the space to be sitting here making mixed drinks,” Provencher said. “So it’s good to have the beer, you get the beer crowd in here for something different.”
Taverna Khione’s dinner menu also changes often, since the ingredients Provencher uses are seasonal.
Though he is excited to be back, Provencher also said opening at this time of year has been difficult, especially during road construction that closed access to Mill Street for parts of October and November.
He said he knows business will become more steady as time goes on, especially in the spring and summer, when he may try expanding Taverna Khione’s hours to include lunch. As of now, the restaurant is open for dinner 5-9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
In addition to the cuisine, Provencher said he tried to convey Greek authenticity through Taverna Khione’s design, decorating its interior with light colors.
“We tried to make this place as Greek as can be,” he said. “So you’re not thinking you’re in Brunswick, but maybe you’re in Greece.”
Marc Provencher, former chef and co-owner of Trattoria Athena, has a new restaurant, Taverna Khione, at 25 Mill St. in Brunswick. The menu relies on seasonal, locally sourced Greek food.