Dino’s Greek Food Truck flavors up The Block — Petaluma
Many restaurants dabble in the flavors of Greece, but Sonoma County’s only all-Greek “restaurant” is actually a food truck that now calls The Block – Petaluma its permanent home.
Konstandinos “Dino” Moniodis not only has a name right off of the Greek isles, but also the street credibility to bring Sonoma County diners the authentic flavors he has always enjoyed while staying and working alongside his father’s family on the Greek island of Chois.
Dino’s father, Dimitri Muniodis, grew up in Greece, where he earned the nickname “Zimi” (“dough” in Greek), because at a very young age, he worked in the village bakery. In his mid-teens, he joined the merchant marines and eventually ended up in Santa Cruz, California, where Dino was born. When Dino was 6 years old, Dimitri moved the family to Santa Rosa, where Dino would go on to graduate from Montgomery High before attending culinary school.
Throughout Dino’s youth, Dimitri took his son back to Greece every summer to stay connected with the culture, his extended family and, of course, the great food.
“Dad was from a village called Lithi, on the island of Chios,” Dino said. Chios lays due east from Athens, across the Aegean Sea, and sits just 3 or 4 miles west of the Turkish coast. A quick internet image search of the island of Chios will have you wondering why anyone would ever leave. It appears to be the quintessential Mediterranean island paradise, and Dino says that the food is as a good as the view. Dino’s business logo is even the outline of the island of Chios.
“Partway through the summer I would always run out of money,” remembered Dino. “When I was old enough, my dad suggested that I work at one of my many cousins’ many tavernas, which are the small family-run restaurants you find throughout Greece’s villages.”
One of Dino’s first jobs was working the grill station at age 14, but he eventually helped with all aspects of the restaurant, even venturing out on the fishing boats to bring in the daily catch. “I always loved the food, but working in the tavernas alongside family, serving the locals, gave me so much more of an appreciation for what goes into making good, clean, healthy food,” he said.
Back in the US, Dino attended the Santa Rosa Junior College culinary program, where he made a lot of local connections and added some additionally culinary techniques and skills to his strong Greek foundation. Dino moved on to work catering for Stark’s Steak & Seafood before joining the kitchen of sister restaurant Willie’s Wine Bar for three years. He also helped convert Equus into a steakhouse, well before it, along with its host Fountain Grove Inn, burned to the ground in the 2017 Tubbs fire.
Throughout his time in Sonoma County, Dino’s family stayed connected to their Greek traditions with weekly visits to Papa’s Taverna, a local Petaluma favorite out at Gilardi’s Marina on Lakeville Highway, until it shut down in late 2012.
“We used to go every Friday night to enjoy the food, the music and the dancing,” said Dino. “That was the closest thing to our tavernas in Greece and really helped to strengthen my love of Greek food and culture here in the US.”
Dino returned to Petaluma to help open Slam Burger, a farm-to-table burger concept that lasted for roughly a year downtown, next to Sugo Trattoria.
“It was a great experience,” Dino said. “I learned to open a restaurant from the ground up, and in only three months.”
The owner and Dino had a difference of opinion regarding the focus of the restaurant, however. After Slam Burger, Dino was the chef at Brannan’s Grill in Calistoga before moving over to their sister restaurant, a pizza joint called Checker’s. This last stop was key to Dino’s appreciation and understanding of what it takes to create great pizzas.
Roughly three years ago, Dino’s father was diagnosed with cancer, so Dino dropped everything to take care of Dimitri. In Greece, this is how things are done.
“He was given six months, but made it almost two years,” Dino said. Enjoying meals from his homeland, prepared by his own son, must have given Dimitri great comfort and satisfaction during his final days.
“The week he passed, I started Dino’s Greek Food Truck,” said Dino. “I had been talking about a food truck for six or seven years, but dad’s sickness inspired me. I wanted him to see it happen.”
That was in the summer of 2019 and even through the pandemic, Dino’s has been carrying on Dimitri’s legacy and gaining fans wherever the food truck parks.