2009-07-01 / Restaurant of the Week

Ovelia Psistaria Bar

Ovelia Psistaria and Bar is a Hellenic oasis in the midst of the bustle on 30th Avenue in Astoria. Ovelia is named for a rotisserie style of cooking and Psistaria means "grill house" in Greek. Ovelia lives up to its name by offering the finest quality, perfectly grilled meats, as well as fish, chicken, salads, sandwiches and an array of appetizers

to please everyone. What's more, Ovelia is also a chic place for a sophisticated cocktail with friends, whether you relax inside the sultry dining room bedecked in modern art, or stake a place al fresco at the numerous tables, shaded by orange market umbrellas. Behind the lengthy, white tiled bar is an open window that serves guests outside, seated on stools at a long bar table. The overall look is cool and modern, yet classic.

Indeed, Ovelia is a family affair and a labor of love. The Giannakas Family runs both the front and back of the house. Father, Ioannis, has been a chef for 35 years in some of New York's finest establishments. Mother, Evangelia is the keeper of the secret recipes, while charming sons, Chris and Peter, keep the front of the house happy. Ovelia opened in December 2006 and has established itself as a prime destination for lunch and dinner seven days a week, and a fabulous brunch on the weekends.

Starting with lunch, Ovelia is happy to serve lunch all day, as a way to help out during these tough times. Besides being a bargain, lunch here is a special treat.

Start with a cup of house made soup of the day, such as chicken and lemon, then dig into one of their sandwiches, built upon homemade bread called "tiropita." The fiestagrilled chicken is exceptional on this warm, fluffy bread, covered with cheddar cheese, avocado, jalapeño and tomato with a smear of cilantro-lime mayo ($11). Tiropita filled with the house made sausage, haloumi cheese, tomato and cucumber is also delicious. Diners rave about the pulled pork sandwich, made in the Ovelia tradition and piled onto ciabatta bread, served with apple-cabbage cole slaw and handmade potato chips ($10). The salmon burger is full of fresh, juicy salmon and special herbs served on a seven grain roll with a side salad. Few can resist the kobe beef sliders, which are mini burgers, cooked to order and served with sweet potato chips.

Visit for dinner and relax with a fruity cocktail, ice cold imported or domestic beer on tap or a glass of wine from their extensive list. Nearly two dozen appetizers or "meze", both hot and cold, grace the menu and include classic Greek spreads such as eggplant, caviar and potato garlic. "Kafteri" is spicy hot mashed feta cheese that spreads nicely onto the triangles of grilled pita bread. My dining companion and I shared the fresh octopus, braised in red wine and grilled to tender perfection. Peter suggested we try the seasoned rotisserie pork for its unique flavor and texture ($12). You should not miss the house special sausage called "loukaniko" which is mildly spiced and grilled so that the skin is crisp and crunchy and the meat inside moist and tender ($9.50). On the cool side, a refreshing salad composed of shredded white cabbage and

carrots is lightly dressed with olives and lemon. The Ovelia

salad combines Romaine, tomato and cucumber with roasted eggplant, zucchini, onions, red peppers and walnuts. This salad is so satisfying, it could be a meal in itself.

One of the characteristics I like best about Ovelia is their new, inventive take on classic Greek dishes. As an example, instead of an ordinary lamb kebab, Ovelia prepares a lamb and fig kebab whose taste and texture leaves me without adequate words. First, the lamb is sublimely tender, and has been marinated for hours. The skewers are laced with chunks of this delicious lamb, candied figs, yellow squash and cherry tomatoes for a truly unique blend of flavors and textures. Another example of their inventiveness is the grilled pork tenderloin that has been marinated in olive brine for extra flavor and juiciness. This succulent meat is served with special multi-grain dumplings and sweet chutney, providing an excellent counterpoint to the savory, salted meat ($18). The grill also renders juicy quail, pork chops and the ultimate comfort food: rotisserie chicken. Seafood lovers will rejoice in the grilled scallops with asparagus, wrapped in prosciutto, grilled jumbo shrimp or your choice of whole fish dressed in olive oil and lemon. The pleasant, professional service also complements each meal here.

A sunny brunch is served Saturdays and Sundays from 9:30am to 5:00pm, though they will happily serve you the lunch menu as well. Brunch costs around $14 and includes a brunch cocktail, entrée and coffee, tea, o.j. or milk. The Ovelia omelet is served open-faced with roasted eggplant, red peppers, onions and walnuts. Stuffed French toast is filled with Greek yogurt, honey and fruit, while the corn flour flapjacks are topped with fluffy ricotta and nuts. Their wonderful tiropita sandwiches are also available on the brunch menu.

One doesn't need an excuse to go to Ovelia. Breeze in anytime for so much as a frothy coffee drink and a hunk of house made apple crumb pie or a cocktail and appetizer to share with a friend. You'll be made to feel welcome and treated very warmly at Ovelia Psistaria. They have a special "to go" menu, but I can't wait to go back and try some more of their inventive, Greek cuisine with a modern twist. Yasoo!

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