Munch goes to Pastitsio
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Ever since Lawrenceville became home base for Pittsburgh's burgeoning hipster population, Munch has been intimidated to venture too far north of Penn Avenue. There's not a single ironic T-shirt nor pair of thigh-hugging skinny jeans in Munch's wardrobe, and Munch still shops at the Gap. Not to mention, the training wheels came off of Munch's very un-cool bike just last week. Has Munch read Dave Eggers' most recent work? Who is Dave Eggers?
But along with the hipsters, the Lawrenceville area also is home to some pretty cheap and delish eateries. Round Corner Cantina serves drinks with funny names and amazing tacos. There's Quiet Storm, which dishes out vegetarian food in Michael Phelpsian portions. And there's that dude that sells tamales outside of Eclipse in the middle of the night. Dozen Bakeshop will melt your heart (literally and figuratively) with cream cheese loaded cinnamon buns, and Coca Cafe makes omelettes that are works of art that you eat. (And no stuffy security guard will stop you!)
In the last year, at least two (there may be more) Greek joints have moved into LoLa (that's right, Munch knows the lingo). Munch and Newcomer to Lawrenceville Friend of Munch, who moved to the neighborhood at the beginning of the year, decided to try out Pastitsio, a takeout cafe with a handful of tables for seating that sits adjacent to Round Corner Cantina.
According to Actual Dining Critic Friend of Munch, Pastitsio was opened last summer by Stamitas Bournias, who graduated from the top-tier culinary program at Johnson and Wales University. After seven years of working for the Man, Mr. Bournias was ready to try something different, so he opened a Greek deli, naming it for a dish that's sort of the Greek equivalent of lasagna.
Munch and NTLFOM ducked into the storefront after escaping a downpour. We were greeted by a friendly Mr. Bournias and a glass case full of Greek favorites: stuffed grape leaves, baklava, spanikopita and wait, what is this ... salad? So many different kinds of salad, and none with french fries or peppers. Munch resisted the urge to bolt. Quinoa salad. Potato salad. Wheat berry salad. And beets, so many beets. Munch's head was spinning.
But then Munch spotted Souvlakia on the menu, one of Munch's favorite meat-on-a-stick meals, even surpassing the Jimmy Dean pancake and sausage on a stick. Phew.
Munch ordered the lamb souvlakia ($11.49) along with a small piece of spanikopita ($2.99). NTLFOM got a menage a quatre of salads: one with tomatoes and quinoa, one made just of beets, a wheat salad and the Greek potato salad. At $8.99 a pound it came to $9.80.
We polished off a couple of stuffed grape leaves (just 50 cents apiece) to start, and they were pleasant with a smoother, less acidic dressing than Munch is used to.
The pastry on the spanikopita was light and crunchy, not sodden with grease as it sometimes can be. The souvlakia, made from locally raised lamb, was perfectly cooked, rare enough to not render it chewy. (Side note: Munch nearly choked to death on overcooked souvlakia on a first date.) It was accompanied by rice and a salad with an impressively flavorful garlic and herb vinaigrette. Maybe Munch could like salad after all.
NTLFOM happily mowed down her multitude of vegetables, and said she was particularly impressed with the beets, in deep purple and golden yellow, which she said she always ate with pickled eggs as a child. And Munch admits, the wheat salad, made of chewy wheat berry, lentils and fresh herbs, was interesting and complemented the souvlakia nicely.
Another plus -- beside the delicious grub for not so much drachma (yes, Munch knows they're on the Euro now) -- was that Munch felt full, but not the kind of full that makes you feel like you should get on the surgery schedule for a quadruple bypass. Even the souvlakia was not greasy, but also not at all lacking in the flavor department. This is good news for Munch, who's health has taken a nosedive with the invention of the pulled pork and pierogie sandwich.
So can you look svelte like a Greek god and eat like a Greek? With Pastitsio and a Shake Weight, the answer is a resounding yes.
First Published April 21, 2011 12:00 am