TARPON SPRINGS — There’s a new restaurant focusing on classic Greek fare in Tarpon Springs.
Co-owner Katerina Tsiliclis, a longtime Tarpon Springs resident who has worked in restaurants for 21 years, opened Katerina’s Taverna & Grill with her husband Nicolas about two months ago.
“I like to be with people. I love people. I love to entertain and carry on Greek traditions, including the cooking,” Katerina said.
The operation at 619 N Pinellas Ave. is a family affair. Nicolas’ daughter Maria Machado pulls off desserts such as the signature baklava that, uniquely, comes rolled and infused with orange blossom water.
The sweets join savory dishes on the menu for lunch and dinner. Many of them, including the popular lamb chops, are executed by Niki Hatzileris, Katerina’s daughter, who leads the grill station with a traditional, flavor-forward approach.
“The one thing that we do differently at Katerina’s Taverna is that all our meats are chargrilled. There is nothing that goes on any flat grills or any deep fryers,” Hatzileris said. “Everything else is strictly chargrilled and pan-fried.”
In addition to Greek beer and wine, Katerina’s Taverna & Grill serves appetizers for solo diners and groups, locally caught whole fish, moussaka, pita sandwiches and spetsofai, a soul-warming mashup of sausage, peppers, tomatoes and feta.
But the house specialty, Katerina said, is her Greek meatballs.
“Seasoning from the island,” she said. “That’s what makes it nice and traditional.”
The restaurant even does a daily special for Lent (think spinach and rice or stuffed calamari), plus a true Greek gyro showcasing pork on weekends.
It’s all presented with an emphasis on fresh ingredients.
“Everything is fresh day by day,” Nicolas said. “Everything we’re doing is in a limited amount, so when it’s finished, it’s finished.”
Not far from the historic Sponge Docks, Katerina’s Taverna & Grill is all blue and white, featuring 52 or so seats throughout its revamped 940-square-foot space.
Charming photos of Greece hang inside the main dining room, while a mural of Santorini painted by a Tampa Bay artist makes the covered outdoor patio even more inviting.
“We tried to keep it as Greek as we can,” Katerina said.