Greek food, like Cuban, Italian and Mexican, enjoys a comfort-food existence in America. Go into 10 gyro places in the Tampa Bay area and you're going to find 10 variations on tzatziki sauce, each chef adding his or her own touches to create the perfect accompaniment to a dish.
It's both familial and fraternal.
Such was the focus of the Annas brothers — Jimmy, Bill and Peter — when they opened the Mediterranean Pita Grill this year in the former home of Apollo's Greek Restaurant on S Broad Street. Unlike the previous tenants, who focused on fine dining, the Annases have opted to keep things more casual and family friendly.
"We're just three brothers who wanted to share what we love with others," Bill Annas said. "Having a restaurant has always been our dream and our passion."
Born in Queens, N.Y., the brothers have taken the recipes from their family's kitchen — so precious that Bill keeps many of them under lock and key — and developed their own spin on them with homemade wine-based marinades and sauces and spice combinations added to a variety of traditional Greek dishes.
Although the brothers could have opted for a more upscale approach, the Mediterranean Pita Grill makes simplicity work for them. Diners will quickly realize that the food comes first.
Midday dining is aimed primarily at time-pressed shoppers and office workers who don't mind seating themselves and ordering from the counter. Despite its 40-seat capacity, the bistro sports an impressive lunch menu that revolves around an array of Greek appetizers, salads, paninis, pitas and grilled specialties.
The nine flatbread creations on the menu run the gamut. The island gyro ($6.25) is an Americanized version that comes topped with french fries. Souvlaki ($5.95) comes with pork or chicken and is served with a generous piling of tomatoes, onion and tzatziki sauce.
Vegetarians are in luck as well. Combos include a falafel pita ($6.25), a sort of Mideast fast-food favorite that comes with lettuce, tomatoes and fresh tahini. The Mediterranean pizza pita ($6.25) overflows with olives, artichokes and feta.
After 4 p.m., diners are treated to a full-service menu that bespeaks the homey tradition of a neighborhood Greek restaurant. Entree offerings are also reasonably priced with generous portions. You can have traditional Greek favorites like moussaka, pastitsio and spanakopita, plus sides, for under $10.
If you're really hungry, go for the Greek trio ($13.95), which is guaranteed to cover even the most embarrassingly large appetite.
Even here, there are plenty of interesting twists. Pan-seared or grilled salmon ($13.95) takes on an fresh dimension when cooked with a sauce of blush wine, garlic, lemon and topped with spinach, tomatoes and feta.
While the Mediterranean Pita Grill may lack elegance, its everyman appeal more than makes up for it. Kids are welcome, and there's even a Tuesday night free dinner special for children 10 and under.
The restaurant's motto, "Come in as a customer, leave as a friend," is well earned.
Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1435.
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Diversions publishes a periodic feature called "What's Cooking," a look at some of Hernando County's favorite dining spots. We welcome recommendations from readers. If you have a place in mind for us to visit, please drop us a line at What's Cooking, Hernando Times, 15365 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville, FL 34613, or e-mail your suggestion to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include the name and address of the restaurant and a brief description of what you like about it.