Erini Executive Chef/Owner Nick Fifis comes from a family of passionate restaurateurs going back three generations to his grandfather who started Ponzio’s diner in Cherry Hill, which is now run by Nick's cousin, Nickolas D. Fifis.
Upon graduating high school, Nick says his dad gave him two options: “It’s either the Marines or Culinary School.” After careful consideration, Nick chose to learn the family trade and attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York. He dedicated himself to the food profession and never looked back—although he can be seen working out vigorously at local gyms like a Marine.
Nick started work at the family diner, but headed to Philadelphia to hone skills at various popular eateries that “make you feel like you can transport to a getaway with a cocktail." His career included experiences at Rococo, World Fusion, Buddakan and Adriatica, all Philly staples.
“My father then asked me if I wanted to open a restaurant,” says Nick. His creative concepts started flowing and he recalls wanting to do a “different spot" that oozed positive vibes and provided an environment where “customers can lose themselves in music, food and energy.”
Nick stresses the success of his restaurant is nothing short of full collaboration with his all-female management team, plus each and every employee. Grounded with his mantra "positive energy loves company," the high energy he extrudes at Erini is contagious and seems to be picked up by all.
Each Black Friday, the restaurant closes, and the staff reports for a day of 'work,' spent decorating the interior and exterior grounds for the fall season. They celebrate the conversion with a party that evening, funded by their gracious boss.
Chef Nick supports other local businesses through daily visits to the Trenton Farmers Market or Blue Moon Acres in Pennington where he picks up ingredients to translate into fabulous dishes he serves to faithful diners. Once Jersey tomatoes are back in season, he makes his homemade mozzarella used in the venue's popular Caprese salad.
He also leads the way in providing an on-site botanical wonderland, which resulted in Erini winning NJ.com's best outdoor dining award. As a youth, his grandparents taught him how to garden, and fig trees at the Erini's front gardens originated in Greece and were brought stateside by his grandfather. The figs are used in many of the restaurant's featured specials.
The restaurant is named after Nick's grandmother, Erini, who shared her love of Greek cooking with extended family members. The Yia Yia's meatballs are his grandmother's recipe, as well as the highly touted cheesecakes. The crab cake/hummus menu item also comes from a family-formulated recipe.