By Sophia Ricco
The flavors of Italy and Greece meet and mingle on the menu of Zaro’s Cafe in Huntington Station, a longtime staple in the community.
Zaro’s Cafe has been dishing out Italian and Greek cuisine for over 25 years with many of the original recipes still being served today. Opened in 1993 by the Zarou family, it has remained in the family for three generations. The latest owner is Edmund Zarou who grew up witnessing his grandparents, father and aunt build up Zaro’s Café. He’s now leaving his own mark on the eatery.
“It’s family business ever since we started,” Zarou said. “I started working here when I was about 18. My cousin was here until she moved on, so now my other cousin is the main grill guy. My wife is the hostess and assistant manager, then my sister is a waitress. It’s still truly family rooted.”
Originally a pizza and gyro hub, Zaro’s Cafe has evolved and expanded its entree menu.
“We started out as a take-out place, then ended up as a sit-down restaurant,” Zarou said. “The customer feedback we received made the transition natural. We are serving high quality food, for a very reasonable price, which people understood.”
The eatery still offers take-out and gyros, but last year Zarou made the decision to streamline the offerings and take pizza off the menu. This has allowed him to focus even further on the quality of the food.
“My mindset was do a couple things really well, instead of just doing a lot of things okay,” Zarou said.
Zaro’s Cafe shows off its Greek side with a bountiful greek salad ($7/10) containing all the elements of a fresh feast. The grape leaves stand out with a well-seasoned inside layer wrapped in soft, earthy leaves outside. There is no shortage of feta cheese which gives the dish a salty kick.
“Everything is pretty much done in-house, from scratch,” Zarou said. “I don’t have a basement, which is a good thing for quality, not good for storage. But fortunately everything is fresh. We’re a five-day operation and I’m grocery shopping five days a week.”
Zarou ensures excellence by tasting all of his ingredients. His attention to detail shows in the spanakopita ($7) crafted by Zarou’s cousin Alex Solounias, The spinach, feta and spices blend together while the flaky pastry on the outside keeps things light.
“It’s us picking everything, we’re cooking it and we’re serving it,” Zarou said. “We have total control. My cousin is super picky, which is the best since he has high quality control.”
Many of the Zaro’s Cafe recipes have stood the test of time going back to the restaurant’s beginnings in1993, A classic Italian dish, penne ala vodka ($14.25) has all the makings of a home-cooked meal with a thick pink sauce and a light sprinkling of fresh herbs. Chicken francaise ($18.50) is light, with a harmonious lemon-butter-wine sauce that doesn’t overpower. The chicken is very tender with a slightly crisp layer of breading.
“We’ve had people that grew up here, went away to college and moved away, then came back 20 years later and told us, ‘Your food is still exactly how I remember it.’ We want to keep that consistency,” Zarou said.
By serving both Italian and Greek faire, Zaro’s Cafe has earned a reputation for variety, allowing people to mix and match the cultural cuisines. Start off with pasta and finish with baklava ($7), a Greek treat, filled with walnuts and pistachios and drizzled with honey for extra sweetness.
“There’s something for everybody here,” Zarou said. “It’s rare that someone will come in here and not find something they like.”
135 W Jericho Turnpike #6, Huntington Station
Cuisine: Italian and greek
Atmosphere: Bright and rustic
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. and 4:30-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. and 4:30-9:30 p.m.