Growing up in Brooklyn, authentic Greek cuisine is not something that is found very often. Pizza parlors and Chinese take out restaurants can be found on every other street corner, but good lamb and baklava are much harder to find. I did not get properly introduced to traditional Greek cuisine until I met my girlfriend who lives out in Long Island. One night she decided to introduce me to a restaurant in Commack, Long Island called “Athenian Greek Taverna.” As we walked into the restaurant, the first thing that hit us was the heavenly aroma of fresh cooked lamb and other Greek staples being prepared in the kitchen, which is not far off the main dining area. We were greeted by the owner, Alex Homenides, he sat us down and chatted with us for a few moments and answered some of our questions. He explained to us that Greek cuisine is not unlike other ethnic cuisines throughout the world. Alex said it best when he said “Greek cuisine is taking simple ingredients and placing a heavy emphasis on flavor, freshness and simplicity.” That is exactly what Athenian Greek Taverna has masterfully achieved in their over 20 year duration in Commack.
Seeing as this was my first time sampling real Greek food, I looked at the menu and wanted to try it all. Alex brought us out a few dishes to try and each one was more delicious than the last. The plates we received were the “Imported Feta,” just feta cheese drizzled with a bit of EVOO and put on a plate. So simple. So delicious. A perfect appetizer to kick start your meal at Athenian. The “grilled octopus”, which once again was done so simply but the flavors just jump off the plate. The octopus was cooked perfectly and made a beautiful pairing with the olive oil that was drizzled over the top. The “Gigantes” were the most surprising plate that Alex generously put out for us. The butter beans that are imported and soaked over night, boiled and then finished in the oven with dill, tomato and olive oil are surprising because of their massive amounts of flavor. Athenian has taken beans to a whole other level with these bad boys. The gigantes make for a perfect appetizer or side dish to go with your main entree. “Yia Yia’s eggplant” was my favorite item on the menu. The eggplant that is named after the Greek word for Grandmother, was absolutely delicious. The eggplant which is not breaded, is fried and then broiled with tomatoes and onions and accompanied by three different cheeses. Each forkful of the eggplant was better than the one before. It is the perfect appetizer but I could easily eat it as a main course. Athenian has the amazing ability to take simple ingredients and bring their natural flavors to staggeringly delicious new heights. That skill and ability is on full display with all of the appetizers at Athenian.
The main entree section of the menu is loaded with delicious options that will keep every patron coming back to try new things. Alex informed us that every Friday night he brings in a fresh whole lamb and roasts it to delicious perfection…..Lucky for us the night was Friday! For the lamb…not so much. The lamb is cooked perfectly and once again done very simply with some garlic and oregano. It is juicy and flavorful and so fresh, you’d think Mary was still looking for it in the back! (Oh my god that was terrible). The lamb is accompanied by your choice of potatoes or rice, both of which are done perfectly and make a perfect pairing with the lamb. The second entree that we ordered was the stuffed salmon with EVOO/ Fresh Lemon and Greek Oregano. The salmon was generously stuffed with delicious crab meat.The giant piece of salmon was delicious and went fantastic with the side of potatoes that accompanied it. All the dishes at Athenian complemented each other beautifully and by the end of the meal I was as stuffed as the salmon….of course I could not resist dessert however. The dessert was chosen by Alex who brought us out a “Karidopita” which is a walnut cake that is soaked in syrup and served with vanilla ice cream. The cake is moist and gooey and rounded out our meal at Athenian perfectly. I can not say enough about Alex the owner. He is as friendly an owner as you will find in the restaurant business. Alex makes it a point to talk with his customers and make each one feel welcome, and answer any questions you may have about his cuisine. The entire staff at Athenian, which includes Alex’s brother is friendly and personable, which makes your experience even better. I highly recommend this restaurant to all of my readers on Long Island, as well as those elsewhere who wish to find authentic Greek cuisine without traveling the 4,000 miles to Athens.