Maria grew up in the quintessential Greek diner. (Think My Big Fat Greek Wedding.) Her father (born near Ancient Olympia) and her Chicago-born mother (whose parents immigrated from Steno and Tegeas in Arkadia) taught her life lessons about family, love, and business from behind the restaurant counter.
When Maria was 5, her father asked that the family speak only English so he could learn the language, and Maria quickly lost touch with her Greek roots until one day in college when she had an epiphany. She thought, I’m Greek! But what does that mean? She was determined to find out and reclaim her cultural heritage.
After completing her MBA, Maria went to Greek school to re-learn the language she once spoke with ease. She traveled to Greece as often as possible and dove head first into Greek culture. That’s when the spark was truly ignited. She performed with the Olympian Greek Dance Troupe of Chicago for 8 years and served on the board of directors, during which time she was actively involved in organizing the Metropolis of Chicago Young Adult League conferences. Maria is also a past president of the Hellenic Professional Society of Illinois.
A proud Hellene through and through, Maria has been a positive voice in Greek media since 2002. She began working in Greek media during her first career in marketing, as a contributing writer for GreekCircle Magazine. In June 2005, she burst onto the local Greek media scene with her bi-weekly column in The Greek Star Newspaper, “Sto Kentro”, about things to do in Greek Chicago. She quickly amassed a strong following, and shortly thereafter, with her ascent to Associate Editor and Senior Writer, she became a full-time writer. She served the paper until its shutter in early 2015. In September 2015, Maria founded her own online publication, WindyCity Greek, which presented the Best of Greek Chicago and Beyond — 100% positive Greek news. While it was wildly successful with readership around the world, due to financial reasons, it ceased publication in late 2019. Check out the archives here.
Maria has contributed to three books and her work has been featured in The National Herald, GreekReporter, Harlots’ Sauce Radio, KPHTH magazine, Women.Who.Write, NEO magazine, XPATAthens, and more. Additionally, she is a co-director of Chicago’s Greek Media Club.
For the past 20 years, she’s covered all things Greek, writing about Greek people, businesses, organizations, history, faith, culture, travel, food & wine; and more; and is a sought-after book reviewer. Over the years, she’s had the pleasure to interview celebs like Olympia Dukakis, Nia Vardalos, Ultramarathon Dean Karnazes, and Maria Menounos; leaders like Ambassador Gianna Angelopoulos, former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, and the Honorable Judge Charles P. Kocoras; renowned performers, including Mario Frangoulis, George Perris, and Elli Kokkinou; plus countless others. Maria was thrilled to meet and interview two of her longtime idols — Greek-American authors Harry Mark Petrakis and Nicholas Gage. Maria recently had the tremendous honor to induct Harry Mark Petrakis into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.
Maria recently completed her first novel, called Finding Eleftheria. It opens in the late 1950s in Chicago’s original Greektown–known as The Delta– and spans 4 decades. This multigenerational family saga explores love, betrayal, shame, family bonds, long-buried secrets, and cultural heritage through the lens of a Greek-American family. Stay tuned for more info. Be among the first to know, by signing up for her monthly newsletter, here.
She is a stalwart advocate of Greek Orthodox parochial schools, and for 3½ years, served on the St. Demetrios Pythagoras School Board.
In her spare time, she loves to cook and explore the world of food (especially Greek food!) and rediscovering her voice–in her younger years she sang and did musical theater. She’s also a fan of a fine glass of wine. Her current favorite is Xinomavro, but a nice Assyrtiko on a hot summer day transports her to Santorini.
Maria loves to encourage young writers. In 2017, she began hosting contests for young writers, and giving Career Day talks, including one for a local Girls Scout troop, that included a short writing workshop.
Maria holds an MBA with concentration in Marketing from the Keller Graduate School of Management and a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Illinois State University. She uses her writing to bring positive Greek news to her local community, as well as to communities around the world. She is passionate about the preservation of the Greek language, culture, and heritage.
Born and raised in Chicago, Maria is the WindyCity Greek.