Colorful decor and cocktails, aged steaks and seafood to write home about have made Spiro’s Lounge & Restaurant in Rocky Point a go-to spot since Spiro Karachopan opened it in 2011. On Nov. 17, Karachopan will bring a taste of what’s made him famous to the Gold Coast when Spiro’s participates in Long Island Pulse Magazine’s Island Tasting. The annual event, which benefits Island Harvest, allows Long Islanders to sample food and drinks from numerous local restaurants at the historic Coindre Hall. Though Karachopan isn’t sure what Spiro’s will serve, he did dish on the inspiration behind his menu and why no one does lamb shank like his mom.
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Tell me a bit about your background and why you decided to become a chef.
My mother used to cook for weddings and I took that from her. It was my passion. I worked for a cruise for three years and then I came to the United States in 1973 and continued working in restaurants. [While] watching all these chefs, I said, “I want to do that someday. I want to open my own business someday.” After five to six years, in 1979, I opened my own restaurant [Sea Basin Restaurant].
You opened Spiro’s about three decades later. What inspires the menu there?
As a chef, you use everything. I use my own imagination and I use my mother’s recipes. I come in here in the morning and want to make something special. [I love] seeing customers come in and seeing people’s faces and how happy they are. That’s what it’s all about. Making people happy and making dishes no one else makes.
What’s your favorite dish on the menu right now and why should we love it too?
My rack of lamb is one of my favorites. I think it’s the way I cook and spice it. I roast my rack of lamb. I use my own recipes on the spices. I mix oregano, rosemary and a little garlic.
Food can be a nostalgic thing for people. You grew up cooking with your mother. What’s a favorite dish she made for you?
If I went home and my mother was making some kind of meal it was a lamb shank. It was served with a risotto. It was one of my favorites. Any time I see it on a menu at a Mediterranean restaurant I think about ordering it.
Have you had anything that measured up to mom’s?
Close enough but never like Mom. It’s like people say about sauce, “No matter who makes it, my mother’s is the best.” I feel the same way [about lamb shank].
What would you have for your last meal?
Fish. Long Island black sea bass. We have a lot of variety of fish on Long Island and I travel all over the world and I go fishing myself. I have my own boat and I go out there. I think Montauk Point is the best place to fish besides Sydney, Australia.
What makes Island Tasting a special event?
Just watching people, recognizing them as they come in our line and hearing them say, “We’ve been to your restaurant and it’s great.”