Greek Any Night Of The Week!
We discovered the authentic Greek Taverna, Athenian in Commack where Jericho Turnpike meets Route 454. This hidden little eatery is neatly tucked away in the corner by the Commack bowling alley and may prove tricky to locate at first, but once you find it your taste buds will blindly lead you back. So often today’s crowd associates Greek cuisine with gyros, souvlaki, and Greek salads. While Athenian easily masters these dishes, their menu will introduce you to classic Greek cuisine at its finest. When you enter this cozy little taverna you will notice there is limited seating for about forty guests. On a Friday or Saturday night you might have to wait for a seat but the food and service are well worth it.
The chef-owner, Alex has been in this location for eleven years and takes great pride in his restaurant and loyal patrons. His goal is to keep the cuisine as authentic as possible while still offering many dishes that will appeal to the mainstream. Alex speaks fondly of his Yia Yia, the inspiration behind many of their dishes. In fact, he proudly explains how the recipes from the old country have been handed down from generation to generation.
To start, our server Melanie brought us over carafes of red and white wine, served in an enchanting small copper pitcher (above left). These authentic Greek style wine vessels are considered half carafes and serve 2-3 individuals.
The Htipiti and Fava were served with pita breads. Although these two spreads may look similar, they are quite different. The Htipiti is a spicy feta dip with a hearty texture and subtle heat (above left). This spread is wonderful with a nice glass of red wine. The Fava is a yellow split pea purée with capers and onions (above right). Although you may want to compare it to your classic hummus, this spread is made without garlic giving it fresher lighter notes.
Their grilled halloumi, which is a mild goat & sheep’s milk cheese, was served with sliced tomatoes, and a roasted pepper and red onion relish that nicely accented the natural flavors (above).
One of our favorite appetizers of the night was the Fried Zucchini with Scordalia (below left). This dish is as authentic as you will find this side of Athens. The zucchini was succulent and enrobed in a paper-thin crispy battered shell. The scordalia was a creamy garlic potato dipping sauce that perfectly complimented the zucchini.
The unanimous favorite was Yia Yia’s Eggplant (above right). It was sautéed in a light tomato sauce and topped with three cheeses; Kasserri, Parmesan, and Feta. One tender bite will bring you back to the magic memories of Yia Yia’s kitchen.
A very popular dish at Athenian is their artfully executed Spanakopita (above). This delicious Greek spinach pie was hearty and robust with flavor. After one bite it was easy to see why it’s such a crowd pleaser.
The Athenian Spring Roll (below left) with chicken, eggplant, peppers and halloumi cheese was sautéed & stuffed in a fresh pita, draped in Japanese breadcrumbs, surrounded by pita chips and served over their Athenian salad was their creatively unique house specialty.
Now if you love lamb, their Arni Tis Souvlas is simply heavenly (above right). This fresh roasted lamb served with superb roasted potatoes is truly out of this world. As a matter of fact, even if you are not a lamb lover you soon will be.
The Keftedes (below left), also known as Yia Yia’s meatballs were perfectly cooked and served with a home made tzatziki yogurt sauce. Seasoned with cinnamon, salt, pepper and tomato, these meatballs are nothing like the Italian variety you may be accustomed to.
For dessert we sampled the Greek yogurt and baklava. The Yogurt (above right) is perfect for those that want a dessert on the lighter side. It’s a Fige brand yogurt topped with fresh honey and nuts. The yogurt, which can be served with several different toppings, had a nice mellow sweetness from the honey. Their Baklava (below) is another example of a traditional classic, with layers of phyllo dough, crushed walnuts, cinnamon, sugar and a hint of nutmeg. We found it was sweet without being overpowering.
This cozy little restaurant is great for those that already love authentic Greek food, as you will find all of the classics perfectly prepared. It also provides a great opportunity for diners that have been timid with Greek cuisine - it’s now time to take a chance! Anyone can pronounce “Greek Salad,” but try to pronounce “Htipiti,” it’s worth the embarrassment even if you say it wrong.