The Giannakas brothers are the powerhouse duo who have been running one of the most innovative and original Greek restaurants in Astoria for the better part of the past decade. The two men work alongside their mother and father, and the harmony is borderline tangible. Chris runs the front of the house with effortless charisma and charm, while Chef Pete orchestrates delectable and creative spins on traditional Greek dishes. They certainly have lemon potatoes, skewered meats and plenty of fresh seafood — even a raw bar.
Or try their Rock n’ Ribs Wednesdays, featuring a barbecue smorgasbord. But the real magic is found hidden throughout the Greek menu in the recipes often masked with the most deceptively simple names.
“I was inspired a lot by our childhood home,” Pete explains. It was his mother’s cupboard that suggested the marriage of java and skirt steak on the Greek Coffee Steak. The beef is dusted with Greek coffee, and served with a skillet of fresh mushrooms and halloumi poutine. It is a little Hawaiian, a little Canadian, a little Greek and 100 percent Ovelia.
At brunch, guests may order a frittata loaded with French fries and feta cheese. Named after the Giannakas brothers’ grandmother, it is lovingly called Yiayia’s Omelette. A family recipe for Tiropita toast arrives with an array of toppings, from halloumi and cucumbers to fiesta grilled chicken, jalapeño and cilantro-lime aioli. An open-faced ham chip-drip steals the show, with thinly shaved slices of ham sautéed with creamy mozzarella and mushrooms, cloaked in a bright, citrusy hollandaise.
At lunchtime, an old favorite — the Lamburgini Burger — has been replaced with a Saganaki Burger.
“Everyone started doing pretzel rolls,” laughs Chef Pete, “and so I knew it was time to do something different.” The new burger features a juicy patty of chopped veal, crisp ribbons of cucumber, fried kefalograviera and a creamy slathering of Greek yogurt tahini spread, all stacked on a bun of Turkish pide bread.
Dinner should begin with an order of fried feta cubes that have been encrusted in black and white sesame seeds and drizzled with Greek honey. Another Ovelia signature is the Parea — a Greek word referring to a group of friends. What better comrades than a carving board loaded with pork souvlaki, chicken breast, monastiraki bifteki, grilled links of loukaniko, steaming pita triangles and french fries sprinkled with oregano.
The pan-fried, hickory-smoked sweetbreads are decadent and tender, and the bone marrow is slowly roasted after it has been brined in lemon and oregano, rendering it subtly but distinctly Greek.
The complete range of dishes runs the gamut from old-school Mediterranean to trendy and current fare, employing sophisticated techniques.
Regardless of what comes from the kitchen, the brothers always offer a broad range of carefully edited international wines and liquors, featuring an impressive selection direct from Greece.
Each page of Ovelia’s menu holds several curious, delicious little secrets. The best thing you could possibly say is, “It’s all Greek to me.”
Ovelia Psistaria & Bar
34-01 30th Ave., Astoria
MORE DINING PROFILES