Page 32 – North Central News, March 2011
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
George Vassiliou stands in front of a painting of his grandmother, the matron of the family business. It is her recipe for calamari, pictured here, that he still uses today. The interior of Greektown has traditional whitewashed walls accented with bright blue paint. Members of his family can be found in most of the murals (photo by Teri Carnicelli).
Café Chat For local restaurant listings, visit our Dining Guide online at www.northcentralnews.net
It’s all Greek to George Vassiliou By Patty Talahongva Lunchtime at Greektown Restaurant, 8519 N. 7th St., is casual and delicious with owner George Vassiliou dashing around seating customers, taking orders and delivering drinks, all the while chatting up a storm with his patrons. In between waiting tables Vassiliou
takes a few questions about how his business has fared in the recent economic downturn. “How many people do you see on staff for lunch?” he asks. It’s just one person—him. “That’s how you survive. As an owner you can’t be shy. You have to bus tables, tend bar, whatever. It’s just me and my great chef,” he says and adds modestly, “I consider myself a great server.” Vassiliou has been in the family restaurant business for more than 35 years now and he knows what it takes
North Central News, March 2011 – Page 33 FOOD FOR THOUGHT
to keep the doors open. “You’ve got to always evolve. I always evolve menu items,” such as adding oregano and cheese to his Greek burger or adding different spices to his gyros. Survival also can mean lowering prices and handing out coupons. “I’m constantly doing fliers,” he says. “We’re giving everybody breaks; as much as it hurts restaurants, we have to!” In fact, he hand-delivers them to homes in the neighborhood before he heads to work in the morning. He also offers discounts to workers at the nearby hospital. “You can come in and get a dinner for $10 to $12 and that includes a cup of soup, salad, full veggie and potato with your meal, plus pita bread and olive bread,” explains the proud owner. Salads run $7 to $12 with lunch entrees from $10 to $13. The highestpriced dinner entrée is $23. Gyros range from $7 to $9. The Calamari is his grandmother’s original recipe and includes a splash of garlic, olive oil and lemon. It is tender and delicious. Greektown also offers a full bar with a great selection of Greek wines. And don’t forget dessert. “The baklava cheesecake makes the world shake,” he quips as he carries off an armload of dirty dishes from a table he’s bussing. The dessert tray is extensive with many tasty choices. So, despite the rough economy, Vassiliou remains happy, upbeat and constantly in motion. “We still want to be a neighborhood hangout,” he states and then reveals that he also gets folks like the president of Greece to come eat at his restaurant. It’s the little restaurant that still rocks. And as they say is Greece, “Kalee orrexee,” or “enjoy your food!” Greektown is open for lunch during Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and for dinner Monday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. The full menu is available on line at www.greektownrestaurant.com. For more information, call 602-674-8881.
Dining Briefs Sierra Bonita changes owners Sierra Bonita Grill, launched by Phoenix City Grille founder Sheldon Knapp, has been sold to a group of local investors. Knapp opened Sierra Bonita Grill in 2005 with Nate Hopper, assistant man-
ager at Phoenix City Grille for many years. Hopper started as general manager and has now taken the helm as managing partner of Sierra Bonita Grill. The restaurant bears the name of the original Sierra Bonita ranch in southeastern Arizona, which is the oldest ranch in the state (founded in 1872) still being operated by the family of its original owner, Henry Hooker. The eatery features territorial ranch-style architecture, and serves contemporary Southwestern fare, including some “ranch style” food. The Sierra Bonita Grill is located at 6933 N. 7th St. For more information, call 602-264-0700 or visit www.sierrabonitagrill.com.
Get comfy in The Living Room Chandler-based The Living Room wine cafe and lounge has opened a second location in central Phoenix. This cozy 80-seat wine cafe offers an extensive wine program, with dozens of selections just $5 a glass before 6 p.m. nightly. There also is a full bar with daily happy hour. The menu includes bruschetta, shrimp cocktail, fries, calamari, fondue, salads, soups, hamburgers, sandwiches and sliders. The Living Room is located at 2333 N. 7th St. Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Call 602-229-1289 or visit www.livingroomwinebar.com/phoenix,
Cooking classes feature noted authors The Arizona Biltmore offers a series of weekend classes in which participants can learn from master chefs and personalities of the culinary world. The classes will be conducted in the main kitchen of the Arizona Biltmore. Another ingredient of the program will be private dinners on Saturday night on a terrace at the resort with the writers. The schedule includes: • March 19 & 20: Laurie Buckle, Editor in Chief, Fine Cooking • March 26 & 27: Barbara Passino, “Chocolate for Breakfast.” • April 9 & 10: Jennifer Jasinski, “The Perfect Bite,” owner/chef, Rioja, Denver The classes are $50 each and include the author’s cookbook and a lunch of the meal that was prepared during class. The Saturday night dinners are $75, not including tax and gratuity. For more information and reservations, call 602-381-7632.
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