TRIBECA — After dreaming for years of running a restaurant that reflected his Greek heritage, Tom Galis soft-opened The Greek on a cobblestone block of Greenwich Street this week.
Galis, who also owns Crave Sandwiches, a gourmet sandwich shop at Sixth Avenue and West 43rd Street, has a background in fast-casual eateries, but for his long-mulled “passion project,” he said he wanted to slow down the pace, put the spotlight on the food and make his customers feel right at home.
"It’s about that strong Greek notion of hospitality,” said Galis, who grew up in the heavily Greek neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. “We want everyone to feel welcome, happy and satisfied.”
The dishes on the menu at the 458 Greenwich St. eatery are inspired by the food Galis grew up eating at home, as well as in his parents' picturesque village in northern Greece. The focus is more on meats and vegetables, cuisine more typical of mainland Greece, than the Greek Island-influenced fish fare at other Greek eateries, he said.
It’s also a menu made mostly of small plates, called mezedakia, which are something like the Greek equivalent of Spanish tapas and reflect the shared, family-style way of eating in Greece.
Galis puts his own spin on an assortment of Greek classics, such as Greek meatballs, called keftedakia. For the $9 dish, he uses his grandmother’s generations-old recipe, which includes fresh mint and an assortment of other spices.
The restaurant, which prides itself on using fresh, all-natural ingredients, also hand-rolls its own phyllo dough for its warm feta cheese and spinach pies. Other larger items on the menu include a two-person serving of grilled pork, chicken, steak and peppers for $40.
For an added touch of authenticity, the restaurant only serves Greek wines, along with two Greek beers. They also have an assortment of Greek coffees, including a "frappe" — an ice-cold Nescafe instant coffee that's the unofficial coffee drink of Greece.
"We really want people to feel like they've been transported, at least for a little while, to Greece," Galis said, "to get the whole experience."
The Greek, which opened Tuesday, is now serving dinner every day after 5 p.m. This week, customers are being treated to an assortment of bread, Greek cheeses, cured meats, spreads — and a bit of ouzo.
Galis said they soon hope to open for lunch service as well.
In the meantime, he's happy he finally found the right spot for his restaurant.
“The block has such a relaxed, comfortable feel — and that’s exactly what I wanted for my restaurant,” Galis said. “It’s what I’ve always wanted.”