By contributor Sarah Torgerson

There is something about a musically-accompanied dining experience: food is richer, conversation is more vibrant, and the world, with all of its countless stressers, is paused for a moment. Marina’s Taverna and Pizza, a Greek restaurant at 215 Terminal Ave. North, is offering Nanaimoites the opportunity to dine on authentic Greek food while listening to a live piano performance. We have all heard music at restaurants—Sirius Radio playing over speakers, either too loud or so soft you can hear your partner chew. But how often do restaurants provide live piano entertainment?

I was hesitant when heading to dinner on Thursday night—uncertain of what to expect from “live piano entertainment.” I couldn’t help but imagine a room full of seniors trying to chit chat over the obnoxiously loud plinking of the piano keys. It was either that, or I would end up being severely underdressed, and the pianist, sitting at his shiny black Baby Grand, would sneer, turning his nose up at my inappropriate, yet unimaginably comfortable, Chuck Taylors. I was quite pleasantly far off on my assumptions.

Greeted by the smiling owner, Marina Prodromou, my boyfriend and I were led to our reserved table—a beautiful corner seat adorned with plush blue and white pillows that complemented the decor. We had a view of the restaurant and the sea of satisfied-looking diners. Above us was a windowed ceiling, not unlike a sunroom, that was outshone only by the bluish fairy lights that embellished the room. But what truly impressed us was the music.

Set up a few feet from the door, Marty Steele, a local musician with a long history in Nanaimo’s live music scene, played a jazzed-up version of The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm.” Jim Morrison and kalamari? I was warming up to this “piano and food” concept. By the time the entrées arrived, my date and I had caught each other tapping our fingers and bobbing our heads to the music many times. From Elvis’ “Love Me Tender,” to Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” Steele put his bluesy spin on a number of recognizable classics.

Danielle Cunningham, a server and Creative Writing student at VIU, has been a member of Marina’s Taverna’s staff since they opened their doors in April 2014. She says the restaurant has experimented with live music nights in the past, hosting “Greek nights—sporadic evenings featuring a live bouzouki band (a Greek instrument similar to the mandolin) and belly dancers.” Upon the success of such festive nights, Prodromou decided to make live music a weekly event.

Each Thursday, between 6 and 8 p.m., guests can enjoy a delicious Greek meal accompanied by Steele’s phenomenal piano playing. “His style ranges from the blues, to jazz, to classic rock,” says Cunningham. “And his ability to play requests on demand is impressive.”

Marina’s Taverna and Pizza is changing up the run-of-the-mill dining experience, and offers something fresh and exciting. Be it a romantic dinner for two, a gathering of family and friends, or relaxed appies and drinks before hitting the town, Marina’s offers a comfortable, vibrant atmosphere.

The restaurant has no set date for Steele’s final Thursday night performance, and plans to continue the event into the new year. From incredible entertainment and a reasonably-priced menu, to friendly staff and decadent Greek specialties, Marina’s Taverna and Pizza is certainly worth a visit.