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A place for Greek and more

(ran NP edition)

Thanks to television and the movies, many people think doughnuts are the favorite cuisine of police officers. Police officers in this city have other found other ways to satisfy their palates.

It's called Arista Foods and Deli at 529 S Pinellas Ave.

"I love it," said Tarpon Springs Officer Albin Quinones, a frequent diner.

I'd heard rave reviews from the officers, so my co-workers and I, who are always on the search for new lunchtime pleasures, decided to give the small restaurant a try.

I called in our order about 11:45 a.m. and was told it would be ready by noon. I was about 10 minutes late, but my food wasn't. It was ready and waiting to go, securely packed in two plastic grocery bags, one for the food and the other for our cold cans of soda.

It was a rough drive back to my office in Palm Harbor. The aroma permeated my small un-air-conditioned car, and I had to fight the urge to pull over and dig into my chicken souvlaki.

When I finally did eat, I thoroughly enjoyed my meal. A large pita was filled with tasty chunks of chicken, tomatoes and heaps of grilled seasoned onions. The onions might be a turnoff for some, but I loved them. I asked for my tzatziki sauce on the side and was given an ample portion.

I also enjoyed my small Greek salad. The foam container was packed with crisp iceberg lettuce and topped off with feta cheese, onions, tomatoes, olives and dressing.

Someone else in my office ordered the chicken gyro. Although she enjoyed the moist chicken in her sandwich, she wished for more tzatziki sauce and fewer onions.

Arista does more than Greek fare. Call in for the daily specials, which can range from meatloaf to spaghetti to Spanish cuisine. Besides cold sandwiches, Arista's menu includes breakfast, burgers and platters of pork chops, chopped steak and chicken served with potatoes, salad and bread.

Nick Zoidis and his wife, Francisca, have operated Arista for about two months. The restaurant seats only about 12, but it does offer free delivery around the Tarpon Springs area with a $5 minimum purchase.

"It's basically like a little neighborhood mom-and-pop place," Nick Zoidis said.

The day we had takeout from Arista, the special was meatloaf with oven potatoes. Arista promised generous helpings, and it delivered. Two chunks of meat loaf were dense and dotted with onions. The foam box nearly overflowed with the lightly seasoned, quartered potatoes.

All was tasty, if a bit dry. Some brown gravy or tomato-based sauce would not have gone unappreciated. Arista also might consider going easier on the meat and potatoes and throwing in a vegetable of the day.

The cheese steak sandwich was a big hit. The staffer who ordered it rated it at least a 9 on a scale of 10. The beef was tender, and the meat, onions, peppers and tomatoes made a tasty blend. The sauce was a little too mustardy, but mustard lovers might really appreciate it. And the sandwich was so large that half of it was saved for the next day.

Arista is a place I'm sure I'll visit again.

PINELLAS TO GO

Arista Foods and Deli

529 S Pinellas Ave., Tarpon Springs

Phone: 942-7977

Hours: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday

Consumers: Four adults

What we got: Chicken souvlaki, meat loaf with oven potatoes, chicken gyro, small Greek salad, cheese steak sandwich, four cans of soda

What it cost: $20.23

Time it took: 15 minutes

Pay with: Cash

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