By Sophia Ricco
Get a taste of nostalgia and delicious Greek food at Parea, the recently opened successor to the beloved Mediterranean Snack Bar on New York Avenue in Huntington.
Many who loved Mediterranean Snack Bar during its 43 years in business were sad to see it closed by owner, Steve Soulellis over 10 months ago. But when Soulellis was approached by family friend, Niko Papavasilopoulous, about buying the restaurant from him, Soulellis knew he could trust him to carry on the recipes.
Papavasilopoulous has stayed true to his word of keeping the recipes the same. The only changes: he spruced up the dining rooms.
“It’s a little brighter, we painted the walls and changed a few colors around, but it still gives that nostalgia to people,” Papavasilopoulous said. “I knew we needed that in the beginning”
Papavasilopoulous’ is 100-percent Greek, and grew up working in his parent’s diner, Plainview Diner.
“I was trying to be not like the diner,” Papavasilopoulous said. “I want people to sit, eat and relax, because at the diner everyone wants to eat and leave.”
It is easy to get wrapped up in the rustic atmosphere and want to chat and dine all night. With an array of appetizers that are perfect for sharing, Parea is a great place to socialize. The hummus ($8.95) is made from ground chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and tahini served with a side of pita bread. The fresh flavor pairs well with bread or on meats.
Or get the traditional horiatiki salad ($17) that brings the flavors of tomato, feta and cucumber in harmony. Keeping with Soulellis’ tradition, the restaurant buys tomatoes from farms on the east end of Long Island.
“Fresh Long Island tomatoes, what’s better than that? It’s basically farm to table,” Papavasilopoulous said.
The restaurant had a soft opening and as word has gotten out and they have grown increasingly busy.
“I wanted to ease into it… Just learning the system here is different than most restaurants because we have the snack bar side and the kitchen side and we have to time it up,” Papavasilopoulous said.
It was important for Papavasilopoulous to keep the snack bar that had made Soulellis’ business a success in his restaurant. Here people can order a gyro and have it in under a minute. The gyro ($9) of ground lamb and beef, is topped with tomatoes and onions served with yogurt and onion sauce.
“As far as the food, I thought I may have to change a few things, but these guys are so on point. They cook it the same way my mom and grandma did,” Papavasilopoulous said.
One traditional dish that Parea features is moussaka ($20.95) with layers of eggplant, ground beef, and potatoes, topped with bechamel.
We were treated to a freshly caught whole broiled bronzini ($28.95) that was being offered as a special that day, with spinach casserole. The fish was juicy and even better with fresh squeezed lemon drizzled on top. Soulellis used to fish for his restaurant and Parea hopes to continue this tradition of freshness.
Although, this is Papavasilopoulous’ first time working in a Greek restaurant, he is thrilled to be honoring his culture by serving its cuisine. The name Parea comes from Greek and means “a group of people who derive great pleasure by simply being together.” He and his family hope they can bring this enjoyment to those who dine at Parea.
“Opening this makes me feel more at home,” Papavasilopoulous said. “I want everybody to be able to come in here and enjoy it.”