Call It ‘Gree-talian’
By Pete & Paul / email@example.com
Though their bloodline traces to Lebanon, Cynthia and Charles
Zaro were raised in a multi-generational household with Greek
and Italian grandmothers. When their mother, Sue Zaro, fulfilled
a lifelong dream by opening a family style restaurant, Cynthia
and Charlie joined the team, and 15 years later, their own
children can be found in the kitchen and working the counter
at Zaro’s Café on Jericho Turnpike.
We joked about making up a new classification for the restaurant
– Gree-talian – but that wouldn’t do the
cooking justice. There’s no meld of the two Mediterranean
countries; rather, both are represented by a kitchen that
handles pasta and parmigiana as skillfully as it does phyllo
Located in a strip mall, the restaurant’s dozen or so
tables seat 50, give or take, and at peak hours you may find
them filled. Don’t let the plastic clothed tables and
paper napkins fool you. The food – particularly items
from the specials board – is as good as any fine Greek
or Italian restaurant. But part of being a family restaurant
is keeping prices low, said Cynthia. Her mother Sue’s
dream was to make a place where families would be comfortable.
It’s about good food at affordable prices, and feeling
like you’re at home, she says.
Our meal started on the Greek side of the extensive menu with
a sampling of dips with house made pita chips. Hummus is velvety
smooth and not too garlicky; Baba Ghanouj is a traditional
blend of eggplant with tahini, lemon, olive oil and garlic;
and Taramosalata, a briny, sweetish bend of whipped olive
oil, lemon, salt and carp caviar.
Other Greek specialties on the must-try list are the Spanakopita
($4.75), with a dense filling of spinach and feta cheese in
flaky phyllo dough, and the Dolma Dakia ($7.25), grape leaves
stuffed with rice and herbs. Zaro’s version has a slight
tang and the rice filling is firm — not the soggy version
that’s too common elsewhere. Like everything at Zaro’s,
the specialties are fresh made on premises.
There are Italian appetizers as well, including Baked Clams
Oreganate ($6.95) – a generous half dozen, and a tender
version of Fried Calamari ($8.50) with dipping sauce and lemon
we’ll go back to try.
Zaro’s has an extensive salad selection, but first timers
will want to start with the fresh Greek Salad ($5.75 small,
$8 large), with fresh chopped romaine, red onion, olives,
grape leaves and feta.
Entrees at Zaro’s include the usual Greek specialty
platters: sliced Gyro ($11.95), Chicken, Pork, Lamb or Veal
Souvlaki ($11.95 to $13.95), Falafel ($11.95) and Shrimp Kebob
($13.95) are worth ordering if only for the housemade yogurt
sauce, a cool blend of yogurt and spices with a hint of lemon
made from an ancient family recipe.
Our favorite by far was the chicken souvlaki, marinated in
another old family recipe.
From the Italian side, we tried an old standby, lemony Francaise
($12.95). Again, the tender chicken was complemented –
not overpowered – thanks to a light touch on the seasonings.
Other options include Chicken Florentine ($12.95) with spinach
and mozzarella; Chicken Alla Zaro’s ($12.95) with vegetables;
and Chicken Scallopine Marsala ($12.95); and numerous Italian
specialties: Veal Piccata, Shrimp Francaise, Eggplant Rollatine
ranging from $11.95 to $15.95. That top price was for the
Seafood Fra Diavolo, which we enjoyed on our recent visit.
Shrimp, clams, mussels and a particularly tender calamari
are cooked in a light and spicy plum tomato sauce over linguini.
There are also pasta dishes galore, heroes and pizza…
virtually something for everyone. And don’t skip dessert.
Zaro’s offers preium Gelatos ($4), Tiramisu ($4), cakes
and puddings. But you must try the Greek Baklava ($2.75),
flaky phyllo stuffed with seasoned chopped walnuts or, in
the Lebanese tradition that Cynthia favors, pistachio nuts.
Flavored with rosewater and sweetened with just a drizzle
of honey, it’s a not-too-sweet and a delightful way
to end your meal.
Good food, great prices and a comfortable atmosphere will
have you coming back to Zaro’s Café. Tell them
the Foodies sent you.
135-6 W. Jericho Turnpike
Atmosphere: Value–priced and casual
for family dining
Cuisine: Greek and Italian specialties
Price range: Inexpensive
Hours: Tues-Sat, 11 a.m-10 p.m. Sun, 3:30