You’ve heard me rant in these pages before about my passion for delectable Mediterranean cuisine; of my lust for Halloumi, the goat-sheep cheese that grills but yet does not melt; my yearning for the seaside pastures of Cyprus. You’ve shared in the tales of my Cypriot brother, the enigmatic Kristos Theodouros, currently entertaining the taverns of that magical isle, bouzouki under one arm, bottle of his uncle’s home-distilled ouzo in the other.
Yes, fellow eaters, to happen upon a restaurant supplying quality Greek dishes is truly a gift for the ages, something that shall stand the test of time—just as hints of Greece’s ancient past have withstood millennia. You can imagine my joy, then, discovering It’s Greek To Me, a mom-and-pop Greek restaurant at the end of a strip mall on Jackson Avenue. Its façade unassuming, its creations unforgettable.
It’s Greek To Me serves generous portions of delicious, fresh, homemade Greek cuisine for very reasonable prices. Its interior is cozy—several tables in front and about a dozen more in an intimate back dining area. Its staff, the Barbalios family—(chef) John, wife Kathy and lovely daughter Stefanie—greet patrons with welcoming smiles. And its menu is loaded, whether eating in or taking out.
I frequently order mine to go, and have devoured many, many of the Barbalios’ fare throughout countless excursions. A top-shelf go-to is their Lunch Specials ($8.95 to $9.95): various platters of meat and rice, half roasted chickens and slabs of lamb, vegetables and greens, falafels and shrimp, top-heavy custom paninis and spinach pie, to name a few. All are accompanied by a side Greek salad, heavy on the feta. And I love feta.
A recent Press staff lunch order yielded a Parthenon of deliciousness, ranging from the staple No. 2 Chicken Souvlaki Sandwich ($8.95)—characterized by large, hefty mounds of juicy chicken chunks, tomato and onions squeezed together between warm, soft pita and accompanied by a tub of Yogurt Sauce and Greek side salad—to the weighty, always filling, mega No. 4 Chicken Kebob ($9.45), a heaping Mt. Olympus of aforementioned chicken boulders perched atop a dense, stocked bed of rice, mushrooms, peppers, onions, broccoli and carrot spears. Each is a vision of pure Athenian beauty. Each is, quite simply, a gorgeous-beautiful mess.
Yet just as 300 Spartans infamously staved off Greece’s plunder from the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae, so too am I known to devour plethora food onslaughts from the Barbalios clan. This Lunchbox is oh so overdue.
First up, the mammoth girth of the No. 4. To start, I emptied a tub of house dressing onto the weighty mass, drenching the bird and her luscious bedfellows. Then, surprise attack: a quick fork at an appetizer order of Dolmadakia ($6.95). Spearing one of the tightly wrapped rice columns soaked in lemon sauce, I dunked her in yogurt, then dipped her in feta and staked a block of moist bird—a move I’d repeat several times throughout this feast. Heaven.
I next executed another signature move: folding a triangle of pita like a slice of pizza, balancing three solid bricks of chick and slathering it with dressing-coated broccoli, onion, rice, shrooms and strands of onion. Adding several feta pebbles, I scooped and slathered more yog across her bow and sunk my mighty incisors into the side. Zeus would be proud.
Another care package from Plato and again onto the beautific leaves of grape. Spearing the great Dolmadakia’s side as if an ancient Spartan phalanx, I impaled the lemony leaves and lifted her up, up, up into the air, completing a move known to some seaside villagers as “The Zorba”—dunking the harpooned headfirst into a yog tub, then smearing her like lipstick across the Greek salad’s feta mountains. The result: a cheese magnet, dear Tzatziki freaks.
Next, chick, rice, shrooms, cucs, pepps and brocc shovelfuls, combo-smear gut roars, pita folds. All went the way of the Cretan Dwarf Hippopotamus: Gone.
“More,” bellowed the oracle that is my belly. “More feta.”
I dumped the leftover lemon syrup from the grapelers onto the platter and loaded up another pita envelope with remaining stragglers. Chomp. Another four scoops of the saturated mess. Chomp slurp gulp. Another battlefield improv: heavy wads of yogurt on the fork prior to harpooning. Another shovel of the feta-laden sal. More shrooms, rice and onion. More pita, mopping up the holdouts. Several more swirls and twirls. Another quick swipe. Chomp-swallow-lick. One final kiss.
“Opa!” swooned my gut.
It’s Greek To Me
127 Jackson Ave.
Syosset, NY 11791