While hundreds of people flocked to one of Westchester's many great Mexican restaurants this week for Cinqo do Mayo, my husband and I decided to be "rebels" and go for Greek.
There's a new restaurant in town…well it's sort of in town…Eliá Taverna is located on the outskirts of Bronxville nestled in the corner of a small strip mall. And while it's easy to miss as you drive down New Rochelle Road, it's worth taking the time to find.
In fact, I assumed Eliá would be quiet on a Wednesday night, Cinqo de Mayo no less, but I was wrong. The small, attractive restaurant was packed with families and tables of people who looked to be old friends. I got a real sense of family from the minute I walked in the door and passed by a wall of old black and white family photos—it turns out the owners are brothers-in-law, married to Greek sisters.
The wait staff was extremely gracious, despite being very busy, and they all seemed to know each other from past culinary jobs. When I asked one waiter (who was not Greek) how he liked working in a Greek restaurant he said, "Here, everybody feels Greek!"
The menu is jam packed with the classic Greek dishes and some dishes that I had never heard of before. My husband immediately zoomed in on a type of cheese he had tried a long time ago, Halloumi, a mild cheese from Cyprus. Our waiter recommended we pair our Halloumi with the restaurant's most popular dish, Ktapodi (charcoal grilled octopus with red wine vinegar and greek olive oil). We rounded out our meal with a Horiatiki Salad (tomatos, cucumber, onions, kalamata olives, green peppers and, of course, feta cheese.)
I have to say, while I'm not the biggest fan of all cheeses, the Halloumi was to die for. As my husband said, "it's like eating a steak!" I decided if the Halloumi was the only thing I liked that night, I would have been happy…then I tried the octopus. I now knew why it's the most popular dish! It had this wonderful, mild, fresh taste. Sometimes "chargrilled" can lead to "overcooked" in my opinion, but this was not the case here, and the amount of seasoning was just right, great taste but not over done. We finished with a light salad that complimented the meal perfectly. For dessert we ordered Kataifi (again our waiter's recommendation); it was a very sweet pastry made with walnuts and honey–tasty.
At the end of the night, I struck up a conversation with one of the owners, Rui Cunha. Rui runs the business side of the restaurant, his Greek brother-in-law is the chef and used to work in Astoria (the mecca of Greek food). Together with their wives, they decided quality Greek food like the kind you get in Astoria was missing from Lower Westchester and Eliá Taverna was born.
Cunha said almost every night the staff chooses one table and presents its diners with a plate to smash. He explained that while most people initially act shy, they quickly get in to character and smash the plate with as much force as they can muster – Opa! From time to time a waiter will drop a plate accidently and the crowd will think it's part of the show – Opa rings out across the room.
I'm glad I made the effort to leave my Pondfield Road culinary favorites to taste test some Greek. I will see you again soon, Eliá Taverna. Opa!!
Eliá Taverna, 502 New Rochelle Rd, Bronxville, (914) 663-4976.