Westerville's new Agapé Mediterranean offers Greek food made 'with love'

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Business partners and friends (from left) Brandon Wright, Matt Morrison, Johnny Baransi and Mason Estep have opened Agapé Mediterranean at 405 Polaris Parkway in Westerville.

Agapé Mediterranean, 405 Polaris Parkway in Westerville, is open for "eats" specializing in pitas, salads and bowls.  

The new Greek restaurant opened for business Jan. 20 by four friends and partners Mason Estep of Columbus, Johnny Baransi and Matt Morrison of New Albany and Brandon Wright of Sunbury.

Morrison, who’s in charge of the real estate and construction side of the business, said Agapé, as it's called on the storefront, is something new, offering a “fresh flavor” that has a healthful aspect.

“I think that’s resonating,” he said. “It’s a known format, similar to Chipotle. Everything is made in-house.”

The name Agapé is a Greek word for love that embodies doing good for one another, according to the restaurant’s takeout menu.

Johnny Maransi makes a chicken bowl with two varieties of chicken, chickpeas, the house rice and house sauce Feb. 1 at Agapé Mediterranean.

“We work everyday to create agape through our company commitments: serving enjoyable experiences and wholesome meals with premium ingredients, building a diverse team to enrich our restaurant atmosphere and developing meaningful involvement within our community,” the menu states.

Morrison said the partners have been friends for years and in the same line of work. 

“Johnny is the foundation,” he said. “He operated and developed a couple Mediterranean concepts in Columbus that have done well. I met him in 2011 and liked the food and his concept.”

Baransi, who’s originally from Israel, said a lot of the flavors at Agapé are more like a full-service restaurant and affordable.

“I moved here after high school,” he said. “When I moved here, I had a job at a restaurant and fell in love with the restaurant business until I opened my first one in Columbus on campus. It was like a campus joint.”

Estep, who’s in charge of business development, said what’s most exhilarating is to see how excited the people are. 

The Greek fries at Agapé Mediterranean are cut fresh, seasoned and topped with feta, parsley and the house sauce, a Greek dressing with oregano and garlic.

“Seeing the repeat customers is truly promising for sure,” he said.

Estep said one customer said the house rice was better than his grandma’s.

“That’s what happens when you cook with love,” said Baransi, who handles the culinary side of the business. 

He also offers advice to colleagues that if they make a bowl that looks unhappy, they shouldn't serve it. 

And a tip he gives customers, “You can never trust a skinny chef,” he said. “We have to have fun and give a good vibe.”

Christina Nelson, a 2018 Westerville North High School graduate, is an Agapé employee.

“It seems like a laid-back environment,” she said. “They care about customers more than just being successful. They put people over the money.”

Through prepping and serving food after two weeks, she said, customers like the Greek chicken that’s made with oregano, garlic, cinnamon and lemon juice and the Greek fries that are cut fresh, seasoned and topped with feta, parsley and the house sauce, a Greek dressing with oregano and garlic.

“Best fries in town … wow, wow,” said Nanette Wright on the restaurant’s Facebook page at facebook.com/eatagape.

“My fave,” added Alise Ruble.

“People rave about our pitas every day,” Nelson said. “A lot of people are saying they like it because it’s a newer style of food.”

Morrison said the Westerville Agapé is the first of more to come.

He said a Gahanna location is scheduled to open around May 1 at Morse and Hamilton roads.

They’re also targeting Clintonville and Grandview as other possible locations.

Morrison said the partners all are pretty relaxed and are going to have fun and run with it. 

Agapé Mediterranean, at 405 Polaris Parkway near Cleveland Avenue in Westerville, is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

He said the community has embraced them thus far.

“I think this type of fast-casual is accelerating right now in the COVID(-19) environment,” Morrison said. “I’ve noticed a lot of kids like this food. I have a 2- and 3-year-old. They love the food. 

“We’ve seen a lot of people coming with families.” 

He said an app is being launched that customers could download through the app store by searching for Agapé pita, bowls, and salads. Delivery also will be available.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. For more information, go to the Agapé website at agapeeats.com.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla