Growing up and spending my first 20+ years in and around PIttsburgh, PA, I don’t think I ever saw a single Greek restaurant–not one. I guess large populations of Greeks never quite made it to Steel Country.
So, I never had Greek food until I moved to Long Island…and even then it was mediocre…certainly nothing I’d write about…even if I did crave it on occasion. I mean, who doesn’t like a messy, greasy gyro now and then?
My impression of what Greek food is and could be changed not long after Nena and I moved to our new house…and discovered Alexandros just up the road in Miller Place.
From the outside, it’s not much to look at…wedged into a grocery
store plaza with a dry cleaners, pet supply store and a so-so wine
shop…but don’t let the cheap-gyro-joint look fool you. This is real
Greek food and it’s absolutely delicious.
Alexandros’ owner, Sam Constantis, is a former Wall Street executive
who decided to make a life change following the events of 9/11. Sam,
his wife and business partner Andrea, and their son Alexandros (now 2)
left Astoria, Queens and decided to head east, all the way to Miller
Place, to open a Greek restaurant. Sam’s father, Tony, who was born and
raised in Athens, was called upon for culinary guidance. I’m pretty
sure I’ve seen Tony there at least three times.
You would never know that Sam hasn’t spent his entire life in the restuarant business.
They do have some of the usual gyro-joint staples…included pitas
stuffed with that strange looking but well-spiced gyro meat, but you
won’t find fallafel here…and no pre-made hummus either.
You want hummus? You’ll get it when you sit down, but you’ll make it
yourself. They bring out a mortar/pestle contraption filled with chick
peas, garlic and just a little oil. Get to work if you
really want that hummus. We usual seemingly scarf this down with the
freshly made pita before we even have our coats off.
Need me to use one word to describe the food at Alexandros?
Tantalizingly fresh. Yes, I know it’s two words, but "fresh" just doesn’t do it justice.
We’ve eaten there several times and get take-out there regularly as well, so we’re becoming pretty familiar with the menu.
Some of my favorites include the giouvetsi (lamb shank over orzo in
a light tomato sauce), the amazingly spiced greek meatballs, and the
best salad you’ve ever had a Greek joint, overflowing with superfresh
vegetables, feta cheese, sliced scallions and lots of fresh chopped
dill. We get it every time we go.
I’m allergic to shellfish, so we almost never go to seafood
restuarants…and that’s another reason we love Alexandros. Nena has
had two spectacular seafood meals on our last two visits. The first was
a whole, right-from-the-ocean red snapper that was simply prepared with
a little olive oil, oregano and thrown on a charcoal grill. She loved
it. Last time, she got garides skaras (shrimp that was grilled in a
similar fashion), again with great results.
The next time we go, I’m diving into some lamb chops or maybe one of
their grilled steaks…they always smell delicious. Plus, I’d like to explore their wine list…which is small, but offers some intersting
looking bottles from Greece.
Even if the food were mediocre (which it’s not), the experience is not. Sam is always
there, greeting customers, either cooking the food himself or
overseeing it closely, and working the dining room, making sure
everyone is enjoying their meals. He recognizes us now…and it’s almost like
we’re members of the family.
We’ll be back…again and again and again. I think it’s becoming our
default restaurant…when we can’t think of anywhere else to go. I can definitely think of worse things.