38 Hillside Avenue, Williston Park
Ambiance: Home-Cooked Greek Goodies
There are at least two types of Greek restaurants on Long Island. The most common is modest storefronts serving gyros, souvlaki and maybe baklava. Then there are restaurants like Taverna 38 in Williston Park. It opened in May as a moderately priced 60-seat spot with a comprehensive menu that’s like a survival course in home-cooked Greek food.
Taverna 38 owners John Alexopoulos and Claudio Peralta are restaurant professionals. They have worked at prestigious Manhattan eateries like Bouley and Picholine.
Despite its high-powered credentials and generally elegant food, there were discordant notes. Like many diners, I punch up menus before going to a restaurant. But the menu at the restaurant is much smaller than the one online. Our waiter was sharp, informed and pleasant, but not always available. We had to flag him down in order to get menus, and then to order our dinner.
The appetizers and entrées were the proverbial mixed bag. Salmon ($22.95), listed as medium, came rare—almost raw. A slightly dry roast chicken with olive oil and lemon, garlic potatoes also did not make the grade. More than compensating for those missteps was a sensational moussaka ($17.95) given heft by its excellent ground beef and an airy lightness from its abundant béchamel.
There’s more good news at Taverna 38. Every seafood selection scored. It’s one of the three menu divisions: land, sea or Yia Yia’s cooking (a tribute to grandmother’s rustic home cooking.) Both Garides, sautéed shrimp garnished with tomatoes, feta, garlic and white wine ($9.95) and the Greek Paella, a mix of fine, fresh shell fish ($28.95), were impressive. An off-putting appetizer of two thick, tough pieces of octopus ($13.95) broke the streak of nautical successes.
Dinner ended on a high note with an excellent moist olive oil cake with Greek yogurt ice cream ($7), an interesting feta mousse ($7) and a mighty good chocolate mousse ($7).