2018-06-20 / Restaurant of the Week

Zenon Taverna

Zenon Taverna is proud to celebrate 30 years in Astoria in its iconic, rustic, Mediterranean home on 31st Avenue. Once you walk through the wood and glass doors of this humble restaurant, you are truly transported to a white-washed, stucco taverna on the island of Cyprus, the third largest and most populous island in the Mediterranean. Opened by the Papageorgiou Family, and co-run by son-in-law Harry and his wife Elena, Zenon Taverna offers an unparalleled experience in authentic Cypriot dining.

“Our cuisine hasn’t changed in 30 years,” says Harry. “Because that’s what people come for,” he added. I couldn’t agree more that consistency is the key to a successful restaurant. Everything here is made from scratch using traditional recipes from their native Cyprus. Even the fresh lamb that is served here is cut to order in the kitchen.

Settle into the peaceful atmosphere and enjoy a cold beer or carafe of house wine while you decide on your starters. Traditional house made dips include taramosalata red caviar dip, melitzanosalata eggplant dip, tzatziki yogurt dip, and hummus chick pea dip. All are delicious when spread on the kitchen’s own olive bread and warm, grilled pita slices. For sure, you should order a salad for the table to share. My pick is the Cypriot salad of chopped romaine lettuce, cucumbers, tomato, scallions, feta cheese, capers, a touch of cilantro, and extra virgin olive oil. ($11.50). On the list of hot appetizers, you simply must try their homemade sausages called loukaniko made with special spices brought from Cyprus. These juicy sausages are then soaked in red wine and grilled over an open fire so the skin is crunchy and the juices run onto your plate to be soaked up with olive bread ($10.95). Pork meatballs called sheftalia are also great to share, along with pan fried cheese called saganaki. My mother and I shared a plate of Zenon Taverna’s superbly grilled octopus, so tender and tasty, basted with fine olive oil and vinegar for a true Mediterranean treat.

Zenon Taverna features a variety of homemade, special dishes each night of the week, such as Monday’s pork cooked in red wine, Tuesday’s Pastitsio baked pasta, or Wednesday’s baked lamb with potatoes. Thursday’s special is spring lamb cooked in parchment paper and foil along with potatoes, carrots, celery and herbs. After three hours in the oven, this lamb is impossibly tender and succulent and literally falls off the bone with a gentle nudge from your fork. No knife is needed here for this melt-in-your-mouth lamb dish ($21.95).

Fresh fish plays a big role in Cypriot cuisine and Zenon does a great job with fresh branzino, grilled whole over the charcoal fire, drizzled with lemon and olive oil. Jumbo shrimp are prepared in several ways: grilled, scampi style, and Santorini style with homemade tomato sauce and imported feta cheese.

At lunch time or dinner time, you can’t miss with a chicken or pork souvlaki, made fresh on the grill and then served in a pita sandwich or on a platter, along with a salad, and choice of fries or roasted lemon potatoes. The service is great here too, delivered by the lovely Maria and George. Sweeten it up with a dessert of homemade baklava pastry or creamy galaktoboureko custard and pastry.

Zenon Taverna will be celebrating its 30th anniversary with a week of specials, including free carafes of wine, flashback pricing, and wine tastings with food pairings. Visit their website for the upcoming events. Upstairs in the taverna, Zenon offers a banquet hall for your private events for up to 75 guests, ideal for showers, birthdays, engagements, and anniversaries. They’ll happily cater off-site and have done so at dozens of weddings, barbecues, church and corporate events.

Zenon Taverna is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, from noon to 10pm, Monday to Thursday, Friday from noon to 11pm, and 11am to 11pm on Saturday and Sunday, cash only. Be sure to visit during their anniversary week, June 18-24th, with daily specials and events. Check out their website for menus, events, and photos, and they deliver free to your home or office. Happy 30th Anniversary Zenon Taverna… yasoo!

34-10 31st Avenue
Astoria  718.956.0133


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