Ever since the first Hooters opened its doors in Clearwater, Florida on October 4, 1983, American men have had a place to eat cheap food and gawk at attractive women. Ladies of Southwest Florida, it’s your turn to enjoy dinner with a view at Naples’ Greek Gourmet, home of hefty plates and hunky waiters.
Located on Tamiami Trail below Golden Gate Parkway, the Greek Gourmet has been open for two years and boasts a menu that is practically designed for people on a $15-and-under budget. Only one dish on the menu tops the fifteen dollar mark, and that is the take-out-only family dinner cooked to feed four to six hungry housemates for $22.95.
As it turns out, Greek Gourmet’s beefy waiters are actually from Serbia, but the food they serve up is seriously Greek, full of the classic, fresh ingredients that make this Mediterranean cuisine stand out from its geographical neighbors. Feta cheese, black olives, and tzatziki sauce made with yogurt and cucumbers abound, but well beyond the ubiquitous gyros (pronounced yeer-ros) and Greek salads, Greek Gourmet’s menu offers an extensive array of Grecian dishes all in obscenely American portions.
We made our first appearance at Greek Gourmet on a Monday night expecting to be just about the only people in the place, but far from empty, the restaurant had a steady stream of diners digging into bulging pita wraps and plates of falafel. Casual without feeling low class, the atmosphere at Greek Gourmet is laid-back and welcoming. Customers order at the counter and then choose a seat in the small dining room or on the outdoor patio and await the arrival of Nikola or Dragan, the restaurant’s two resident server studs. (Careful guys, women have been known to threaten misbehaving boyfriends with trips to Greek Gourmet.)
After careful deliberation we decided to split two entrees, the island chicken dinner ($12.95), which comes with the choice of a Greek salad or soup, and the Greek Gourmet pitsa ($9.95). I know what you’re thinking: pizza’s not Greek and who forgot to spell check? According to Greek Gourmet’s menu however, the word “pitsa” is formed from the combination of “pita” (flat bread) and “saltsa” (sauce), and was used by the Greeks before it was rudely stolen, misspelled and popularized by the those ruthless linguistic pirates, the Romans.
Heritage wars aside, our dinner started out strong with the arrival of the salad we had chosen to accompany our chicken. A sizable mess of lettuce crowned with olives, onions, tomatoes, tons of creamy feta and even a stuffed grape leaf, Greek Gourmet clearly knows what it takes to make a salad something special. The final touch is their light and tangy homemade dressing, which compliments but doesn’t overpower the salad’s flavor.
Next, the restaurant proved that Greek pitsa is nothing to scoff at. Topped with spinach, feta cheese, garlic, gyro meat, olives, tomatoes, onions and peppers, our personal-sized pie was thick, filling and fresh out of the oven. Greek Gourmet warns that their pitsas may take 15-20 minutes to prepare, but food that is actually cooked when you order it is definitely worth the wait.
Our other entrée was equally satisfying. Supposedly marinated in “Athina’s secret spices,” the island chicken was a hearty meal of rice pilaf topped with grilled chunks of chicken, onions and peppers, and served with triangles of pita bread and tzatziki sauce, which seriously tastes good with just about anything.
We finished dinner totally stuffed and with leftovers to save for the next day’s lunch. The only thing missing was a little glass of ouzo or some Listerine to kill off the funky breath that comes from a meal largely comprised of olives, onions, and garlic. If you’re hungry and low on cash Greek Gourmet won’t disappoint, but don’t forget to bring along some mints to increase your chances of a date with one of the buffed-up employees.