By Maria A. Pardalis
Greek cuisine has become all the rage in New York City over the past 10 years, this may be due to researchers reporting on the abundance of health benefits that it brings to its devout followers or perhaps to the claims that it will help you win the battle of the bulge. As a result, we have seen a sudden spike in haute Greek cuisine and classical Grecian restaurants all over the tri-state area. A personal Manhattan favorite of mine is Kellari Parea Bistro, an oasis of Greek-American comfort food that I frequent for its fresh seafood that is displayed packed in ice, its delectable fava spread and mouth watering sheep’s milk yogurt, generously topped with Greek thyme honey and toasted walnuts. The culinary creations featured in its robust menu are unfettered by heavy sauces, complicated ingredients and will rapidly transport you back to the clear blue Mesogios.
The menu’s craftsman is Gregory Zapantis, a prominent and award-winning New York chef also responsible for Kellari Taverna NY and Kellari Taverna DC. Chef Gregory came to the United States from Kefalonia as an aspiring architect that worked in the food industry in order to pay his way through school. Little did he know that during his college years he would discover his true calling in life, the world of culinary art. Chef Gregory’s passion for cooking and his family is warmly presented in his eclectic menu consisting of authentic Greek and Mediterranean recipes, most of which stem from his childhood years. He feels strongly about how Kellari Parea Bistro is characterized, since most people are quick to label it as a Greek restaurant. “How can you put borders on food? I want everyone to know that Kellari Parea is a seafood restaurant with Greek influence,” Chef Gregory exclaims.
Growing up on a small island, exposed Chef Gregory to many different types of seafood and quickly caused him to embrace seasonal ingredients in his cooking. As a result, Kellari Parea Bistro’s menu always features local ingredients, seasonal specials and whole fish imported from Greece. Kellari Parea Bistro’s best selling item may be grilled lavraki served with steamed greens, but I strongly recommend you try Yesterday’s Lamb™, a succulent dish that is slowly roasted and marinated over 24 hours and served with oven glazed oregano lemon potatoes. Sadly, Chef Gregory could not share this recipe with me since its trademarked, however he did share a brilliant one for halibut.