Santa Cruz Good Times

Apr 24th
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Munching On The Mediterranean

dining vasilisAt Vasili's, home-style Greek classics continue to fill the house  

The annual Greek Festival from Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church is just around the corner (Sept. 14-16). I thought I'd get an early start on the celebration since home-style Greek food is available year-round at Vasili's.

It was a lunch hour, and familiar blue and white tables, paying homage to a color on the Greek flag, were heavily occupied.

I can make a meal just from the appetizer menu. An oval plate holding dozens of olives ($6.95) began to take a bite out of our appetites. Two browned and flaky folded filo triangles of Baked Tiropita ($2.50) were filled with a comfortingly earthy, smooth spread of feta and cream cheeses with egg. The Keftethakia ($5.50) arrived surrounded by the sweet scent of garlic. Four delicious orbs of finely ground meat sat in a bath of olive oil. Nicely browned on the outside, their herb-rich centers were succulently moist.

The showy Saganaki ($12.95), lightly breaded and fried Kasseri cheese, was brought to the table by owner and Chef Julie White, doused with brandy and set afire. Spreading it on thick slices of sourdough baguette, a sprinkle of fresh lemon juice enhanced its salty richness.

Lunch entrées ($7.50 to $11.95), include kebabs, a feta burger, and both meat and vegetarian casseroles. Dinner entrées run about $5 more.

Souvlaki ($7.95) is otherwise known as a Gyro. When not wrapped in pita bread, it made a beautiful gluten-free salad, with fat chunks of grilled chicken, romaine, tomatoes, and garlickly yogurt-based tzatziki sauce.

A small side of French fries ($3.75) filled an entire dinner-sized plate. The crisp potatoes with creamy interiors were sprinkled with a lovely blend of secret ground herbs, including oregano and thyme. dining vasili

The Souvlaki Plate ($9.95) is served with your choice of marinated chicken breast, pork tenderloin, meatballs or lamb. I chose the latter, and the enormous plate arrived with a mountain of tender roasted meat that absolutely fell apart. (Leftovers made a second full meal plus a luscious avocado sandwich.) It was served with plump grains of plain pilaf rice and an equally huge salad of crisp romaine with a large kalamata olives a slab of feta cheese, slices of meaty tomato, and dressed with a touch of sharp red wine vinegar. Also included were toasted triangles of flatbread sprinkled with dried herbs, and tzatziki. I ordered a side order of Taramosalata dip ($1.75), a smooth base of potato flakes mixed with red caviar, onions, olive oil and lemon juice, which added a salty counterpart to the rich meat.

For dessert there was layered filo Baklava with nuts, chocolate cake, and a three-inch Vanilla Bean Cheesecake ($4.50), which was exceptionally fluffy and rich, and speckled with bits of vanilla seeds.

Vasili's Greek Restaurant, 1501A Mission St., Santa Cruz, 458 -9808. Beer and wine. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Visit


There will be a pop-up breakfast ($25) at the Westside Farmers Market at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 25. Enjoy, among other items, salted caramel sticky buns, sausage roulade, and macerated fresh fruit with sparkling wine and vanilla bean. For more information visit

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