By Jonathan Montgomery
Daily Titan Staff Writer
Sophiaâ€™s Greek Cuisine gives customers a side of rhythm and dance along with their gyros and baklava.
Located on Kraemer Boulevard in Placentia, Sophiaâ€™s provides belly dancing entertainment every Thursday and Friday night, while customers dine on authentic Greek food.
The entrance to Sophiaâ€™s seemed nearly hidden in the back, partially covered by green bushes.
When customers walk inside, they will see a warm and cozy restaurant, thoroughly decorated in different statues and art, some of which were brought straight from Greece by family and other relatives. At first, the music was soft and acoustic; the workers were warm and inviting.
By 7:30 p.m., the music drastically changed to fast rhythmic guitar and drums. The click and clanks of finger cymbals were heard before the dancer, Christine Oâ€™nan â€œPerizad,â€ was even seen.
Then, she appeared in a flash, wearing sequins that reflected light as she moved.
She sported a black dress which exposed her stomach and a vibrant red scarf danced gracefully in the air around her. Even her polished red toenails seemed to add to her exuberant appearance.
Her movements were beautifully sexual, consisting of vibrating and pulsating jerks of her hips and body. Her fingers maneuvered delicately, inching slightly but producing quick sounds from the tiny cymbals wrapped around them.
And this wasnâ€™t just a one-woman-show. Diners were also asked to participate and learn the art of the dance; Edith Castro, 43, was the first.
Castro stood next to Perizad following her instructions, looking as if sheâ€™d belly danced before.
â€œIt was fun,â€ said Castro, despite being â€œa little nervous.â€ Castro said this was her second time visiting Sophiaâ€™s.
A disco ball attached to the ceiling added to the feel of the music, spinning swiftly while Perizad danced underneath it.
She moved to another table to teach a man how to do the dance before returning center stage, with all eyes on her.
At 7:44 p.m., she was finished. The lighting had changed, and the room went back to the soft, romantic ambience.
Perizad, has been belly dancing for eight years, but has a background in both modern and jazz dance. She said it took about a year to learn how to belly dance, but that it is always an ongoing process.
â€œ(Iâ€™m) always striving to improve,â€ said Perizad.
She said a lot of the dance she performed that night was improvisational and interactive. She works off the mood of the crowd each night she dances, making each performance unique.
Additionally, she works as a dance instructor, teaching three classes a week in Laguna Niguel. She graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a BA in art, with an emphasis on commercial illustration, but she lives for the beauty of creativity, love of people and self-expression which dance brings.
When asked when she will stop dancing, Perizad responded, â€œUntil I canâ€™t walk.â€
According to owner Marwan Dababneh, 35, Sophiaâ€™s has often been regarded as â€œthe hidden jewel of Placentia.â€
The front room is decorated not only in statues, but also past reviews and recently attributed awards.
One picture shows Dababneh standing with former professional basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
â€œHeâ€™s pretty tall. He likes his lamb chops,â€ said Dababneh.
He said the implementation of belly dancing in Greek restaurants started in the United States but has extended over to Greece. For those looking for something different, Sophiaâ€™s also hosts folk dancing once a month.
Dababneh has no managers under him, but that doesnâ€™t mean he is doing all the work by himself. Instead, Dababneh said they work like a family, which keeps things running smoothly and helps to avoid the feeling of a chain restaurant.
Sophiaâ€™s has gone through different owners and changes over the years; the original restaurant was located across the street.
Dababneh gained ownership of the restaurant four years ago and only added about 50 percent to the menu, most of which were his motherâ€™s recipes passed down through generations.
Diners looking for a night of live entertainment, authentic cuisine and a full bar in a family-style environment, may want to check out Sophiaâ€™s Greek Cuisine for a â€œfun, comfortable, enjoyable evening,â€ Dababneh said.