2017-09-13 / Restaurant of the Week

Brothers Taverna

Brothers Taverna snuck onto the Astoria dining scene quietly last November but is now making big noise around town thanks to the authentic, traditional Mediterranean cuisine served here, along with a great selection of wines, beers, and cocktails. Besides the excellent, homestyle cuisine, one of the nicest attributes of Brothers Taverna is their sister, the lovely Zhuljeta, who helped design and decorate the restaurant, and keeps the boys in line. The Buja family hails from Albania from the small town of Shkodra where three of the brothers Marash, Ben and Mir initially emigrated to Greece and honed their skills in the restaurant business. The next stop was the United States with sister Zhuljeta in tow. The fourth eldest brother Tonin Buja still lives in Albania but the family took their favorite recipes, love for food, and work ethic to Astoria (where else?) to build a family-style restaurant with great taste and style!

The corner spot on Steinway Street and 23rd Avenue is ideal for showing off the modern, sleek décor with cool, slate-colored, tile floors, driftwood paneling, and some exposed brick for warmth. The passion and hospitality are felt the minute you walk through the glass doors and are warmly welcomed by Zhuljeta. On the way to your table you’ll pass by the open kitchen where slow-roasted pork, lamb, beef, chicken, lamb chops, and sweetbreads wait to be served. On a rainy Saturday evening, the dining room was nearly full as a family of 10 came in to celebrate life with good food and wine. Brothers Taverna hosts many family events, with semi-private seating for up to 50 people.

The chefs at Brothers Taverna make everything from scratch incorporating their cultural touch to classic Mediterranean fare. The grilled octopus was exceptionally tender, and the largest portion I have ever seen and could easily be shared amongst the table. The grilled calamari is equally delicious to start with and a trio of house made dips is in order. Mounds of creamy tzatziki, garlicky skordalia potato dip, and tirakafteri spicy cheese dip make up the trio, served with warm triangles of pita bread that beg to be shared with a glass of wine or sangria, mixed by our server. Next came a nice plate of grilled haloumi cheese from Cyprus, served with tomatoes and cucumbers with fine olive oil ($8.50). A gorgeous platter of grilled summer vegetables came next featuring zucchini, eggplant, red and yellow peppers, and mushroom all charred to perfection and perfect when slathered with the dips ($9).  Brothers’ ‘meze’ show off their skills with meat too: bifteki, sheftalia, and homemade sausage that are all great to share.  

The intense heat of the rotisserie renders the finest, most succulent meats, including roasted lamb that melts in your mouth, and roasted ‘kontosouvli,’ which is boneless pork shoulder that’s been marinated in tomato, onion, garlic, and peppers. ‘Kokoretsi’ is a Mediterranean peasant dish of sweetbreads (livers and hearts) wrapped in lamb intestines. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. When you grow up poor in the Mediterranean, as my family did, you appreciate the flavors and textures of this dish. If that’s not your thing, the roasted chicken is great for a family meal, to stay or to have delivered, along with a side order of their fantastic lemon potatoes, French fries, rice, or sweet peas. If you can’t decide, try the Brothers Mixed Platter for two or four people, where you’ll get a very generous sampling of all their rotisserie meats to share.

Sizzling baby lamb chops, pork chops, and juicy rib eye steaks go straight from the grill to your warmed plate for a no-nonsense meal that really satisfies. The BBQ baby back pork ribs and a classic

8-ounce burger are also good options, along with the grilled chicken breast.
Classic pork or chicken gyro are sliced thin off the rotisserie, and served on a luscious platter with lettuce, tomato, tzatziki sauce, and warm pita bread. The same is true for souvlaki skewers made from chunks of pork, beef, chicken, or handmade bifteki and sheftalia. For lunch time or anytime, choose your favorite cuts of meat and have them piled into a pita for a sandwich that requires two hands and a hearty appetite.

Sweeten your palate with homemade rice pudding or yogurt with honey, walnuts and fruit. Coffee and espresso complete the meal along with an after-dinner cordial.
Visit Brothers Taverna seven days a week, for lunch or dinner from 11am to 11pm. Brothers Taverna is the perfect place for a family dinner, even Christmas Eve or Easter. Parking is easy and the N train is a short walk away. There’s a Take-out menu with free local delivery so there’s no reason not to try the family recipes and dishes from the Brothers (and sister) Buja.

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