It's a spacious, airy place, with a casual but pleasant atmosphere and a civilized noise level, especially in the main, outer room (the room of choice, with windows overlooking the street), which is done in muted purple and features the occasional, but restrained, Greek touch -- a statue of a classic Greek maiden here, a Corinthian column there. There is an inner room as well, done in aqua and used, I assume, when the outer room is full, or for large groups.
The menu isn't huge, and its relatively few Greek offerings don't stray very far from the most familiar standards. My personal favourite among the appetizers is the tender, lightly breaded and crisply fried calamari ($13.99). I also liked the crackling spanakopita of crispy phyllo over a flavourful filling of spinach and feta, which is served either as a starter ($12.99) or main course ($18.99). The cucumber and garlic-spiked tzatziki is particularly good, served with toasted triangles of pita for dipping ($4.99). I found the chickpea-based hummus too dense for my taste and thought it could have used more lemon juice as well, but, to be fair, my friends thought it was just fine ($4.99).
Most entrées cost from $15.99 to $28.99, including soup or salad. There are some non-Greek entrées as well, fried cod among them, but we opted instead for one night's special of lightly breaded and fried-fresh pickerel, which was excellent. We had it with fries, of course, which were skinny and good, if not quite crisp enough. The restaurant's full title is Pappas Greek Food and Steak, and a tender, juicy and full-flavoured New York steak more than justified the name.
But the main reason for my visits was to try the Greek specialties, and the best of those (and the best I've had in ages) was the sumptuous cinnamon- and nutmeg-seasoned moussaka with a moist and generous meat filling sandwiched between a bed of potatoes, zucchini and eggplant topped by some rich, but light, béchamel. Lamb chops, lightly seasoned with lemon and oregano, were also top-notch.
Both the chicken and pork souvlaki were slightly dry, and both needed either more seasoning or a longer time in the marinade (available as either entrées or as gyros, folded in pitas). There are barbecued ribs on the menu, but the ribs I can never resist are the broiled, unsauced Greek ribs, which are simply dry-rubbed with lemon and oregano. Ours were inconsistent, though. As a full-size la carte order, they were almost disastrously dry and underseasoned but surprisingly, in a small portion as part of Pappas sampler dinner for two, much moister and tastier.
For hefty appetites, or couples who can't make up their minds, the dinner for two is a convenient buy at $55.99, but be sure to come hungry since it comprises both avgolemono soup and Greek salad, a little container of tzatziki with pita, chicken souvlaki, spanakopita, moussaka and Greek ribs. Also included is garlic toast, roasted potatoes, which were just lemony enough, and tasty carrots. The avgolemono soup was good (so was an alternate tomato-macaroni du jour). The dressing on the included Greek salad was nicely balanced and well fleshed out with ripe tomatoes, but they skimped on the feta, which was barely more than a mere sprinkling, and on the olives during one visit when we got only one olive per person.
Greek restaurants are often good sources for pizzas, but Pappas' pizza wasn't just good -- it was marvellous. The pliable crust was on the thin (but not wafer-thin) side, light and crispy on the outside, but nicely chewy within, spread with a very light layer of slightly sweet tomato sauce, and for our all meat topping, a generous amount of good quality ham, pepperoni, salami and bacon ($17.99 for 10 inches).
Most Greek menus also list a few pastas -- baked as often as not (as they are here) and, as often as not (at least in my experience), less satisfying than their Italian cousins, but our lasagna was a delicious exception ($17.99, with soup or salad and garlic toast). It came still bubbling in its casserole dish and was absolutely irresistible, centered by a delicious meat sauce that tasted more Greek than Italian -- a hint of cinnamon here too?
The honey-drenched baklava, with fresh-tasting walnuts under super-flaky phyllo, was one of the best I can remember. I don't know if lemon meringue pie could be classified as Greek, but it too was great, with a lovely lemon curd under a gossamer meringue ($5.99 each).
Service was warm, attentive and thoroughly knowledgable about all aspects of the menu. There's ouzo, of course, and a few Greek selections on the small and pricey wine list. Seven ounces of the house Pinot Grigio isn't excessive at $7.99, but it is unusually large as the only choice; an alternative four-ounce pour might be welcome.
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Restaurants marked with a red flag were rated between 0.5 to 2.5 stars; yellow flags mark those rated between 2.5 to 4 stars; and green flags mark those rated rated 4.5 to 5 stars. Locations marked with a yellow dot were not assigned a star rating.