2002-01-23 / Restaurant of the Week

Restaurant Of The Week

Stamatis
By Teresa Barile

Restaurant
Of The Week

For 30 years, the husband and wife team of Stamatis and Ann (no one knows them by their last name) have been serving up delicious, home-style Greek food in Astoria. There are two Stamatis Restaurants. The older one, which I visited, is located on 23rd Avenue, just off 31st. Street, and the newer location is on Broadway near 33rd Street. At either location you’ll dine in a very comfortable, casual atmosphere that welcomes friends, family and children. Stamatis and Ann greet customers at the door with a friendly smile and often chat with guests to make sure everything is to their liking.

The 23rd Avenue location has a deceptively plain facade with a large window displaying the fresh fish of the day on ice. Inside, diners can view the specials, roasts and delicacies of the day prepared by the expert chefs. Just beyond the open kitchen, a lovely, spacious dining room is buzzing with life as friends and family convene to share a meal. Murals depict an Aegean village with garden and seaside scenes. In the summer, an outdoor patio allows for delightful al fresco dining.

My favorite part of Greek cuisine is the wide variety of tempting appetizers, and Stamatis always prepares them well. Try an order of the grilled squid, tender yet toothsome in rich olive oil and lemon. The grilled octopus is just as good and both get a wonderful smoky flavor from the charcoal grill. Enjoy a plate of gigantic lima beans, slowly cooked for hours until their buttery flavor is released and enhanced by fresh dill and garlic. Of course, a sampling of dips is a must, including creamy, garlicky skordalia, a smooth potato dip which should be spread liberally on a piece of crispy garlic bread.

For those who prefer, homemade soups include avgolemono, a chicken and lemon soup with orzo, hearty lentil soup or a soul-warming meatball soup, very popular with kids. A hunk of kefalograviera cheese, with its tangy flavor and wonderful texture is practically a meal in itself.

Red and white wine is available by the glass or bottle. We were quite pleased with the carafe of house red that we shared, and it was reasonably priced at $8. The variety of entrees made our choice difficult. We remembered the succulent roast lamb that we saw in the front kitchen as well as the roast beef. Roast chicken that falls off the bone is another great choice. Stamatis’ delectable oven roasted lemon potatoes are a must, no matter what you order. I finally decided on the homemade moussaka, a rich, traditional casserole of seasoned ground beef layered with fresh eggplant and creamy bechamel sauce. It was great, and the generous portion provided me with lunch the next day. My dinner companion succumbed to the lamb and was amazed at how the incredibly tender, slow-roasted meat just melted in his mouth. Many entrees range between $10 and $16 and come with potatoes. We shared a side order of orta, sauteed dandelion greens, and polished off the wine.

Other dishes, including tender baby lamb chops, veal chops and tiny quail, are also excellent and cooked to order. Stamatis features lots of fresh fish and shrimp each day. Porgy, red snapper and striped bass are marinated in lemon and olive oil and cooked whole over a charcoal grill to impart a delicious flavor to the flaky, white fish. What could be healthier than that?

A dessert of sweet custard in flaky phyllo dough was the perfect ending to this meal. Bring your friends, your family and a big appetite when you visit Stamatis. Both locations are open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week and credit cards are accepted. The service is friendly and you'll always be greeted with a smile.

Stamatis

29-12 23rd Avenue, Astoria,

932-8596—278-9795


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