A Taste of Greece

It is impossible to talk about Greece without mentioning its amazing cultural and culinary history. The cradle of western civilization, Greece is an iconic country rich in history and popular culture. After all, it’s the birthplace of mythical figures like Athena, Poseidon, and Zeus as well as the Olympic Games. We can also thank Greece for introducing our American palate to the fresh flavors of the Mediterranean. From grains to fish to herbs and cheese, Greek cuisine is the epitome of the word “fresh.”

It is impossible to talk about Greece without mentioning its amazing cultural and culinary history. The cradle of western civilization, Greece is an iconic country rich in history and popular culture. After all, it’s the birthplace of mythical figures like Athena, Poseidon, and Zeus, as well as the Olympic Games. We can also thank Greece for introducing our American palate to the fresh flavors of the Mediterranean. From grains to fish to herbs and cheese, Greek cuisine is the epitome of the word “fresh.”

Staples of Greek Cuisine

An Ode to Olive Oil

Go to any Greek kitchen, and you’ll find bottles upon bottles of olive oil. Olive oil is to Greece what butter is to the United States. The use of olive oil enhances items commonly found in this type of cuisine like vegetables and meats. From start to finish, olive oil is a staple at any Greek dinner table. From coating a pan to pouring over cheese to tossing with salads, olive oil reigns supreme.

Fresh Seafood

Characterized by stunning shorelines, it is no surprise that Greece is known for its seafood. Freshly caught from the ocean, popular dishes vary on each island depending on the bounty from the surrounding sea. Grilled octopus is a staple in Corfu and Crete. Red snapper and swordfish is a noted favorite in Samos and Naxos. Bronzino (Mediterranean sea bass), a delicious whole fish, is caught and eaten daily in seaside fishing villages. To complement the seafood feast, guests can snack on a variety of mezedes and/or appetizers. Although diverse in nature, there are many commonalities among Greek dishes. Pita with dips like hummus and tzatziki pair nicely together. Another popular dish is Dolmades, which translates to stuffed or filled. Made with grape leaves, this finger food is packed to the brim with rice, veggies, and herbs.


From skewers of chicken to whole roasted animals rotating on a spit, Greek cuisine knows a thing or two about its meats. Running the gamut of lamb, goat, poultry, pork, and rabbit, meat has become an essential part of Greek cuisine. When it comes to meaty entrées, the most famous dish is the gyro. Often made with rotisserie lamb, sliced straight from the spit, these packed pitas are filled with tomatoes, shreds of lettuce, and drizzled yogurt sauce. With the option to substitute with chicken, pork, or falafel, gyros are versatile for all tastes. Souvlaki, a popular fast food dish of Athens, consists of skewered chicken or beef, wrapped in pita and served with rice pilaf. Home-cooked meals include the oven-baked Pastitsio—a dish layered with pasta and juicy minced beef cooked in a tomato and béchamel sauce.

The Food of the Gods (Cheese, That is)

From sweet manouri cheese found in Greek desserts to the almighty feta, Greek cheese is considered food from gods—literally. According to Greek mythology, Apollo’s son, Aristaios, gifted the Greeks with the “gift of everlasting value.” This offering included the gift of cheesemaking, as well as other food staples, including honey and olives. Whether naturally talented at the art of cheesemaking or touched by the Almighty, cheese in Greece is as sacred as it gets. In fact, a number of cheeses are protected by the European Union’s Protection of Designated Origin, meaning cheeses like feta and kasseri cannot be made in other parts of the world.

Something Sweet

From baklava to homemade yogurt, Grecian cuisine has a litany of sweet treats. Dating back to 8th century BC, the dessert baklava has truly stood the test of time and remains a classic. Sweetened with raw honey, this flaky layered dessert is filled with chopped walnuts for a little crunch. For even more sweetness, try the deep fried yet decadently airy, bite-sized Loukoumades (translation: Greek doughnuts). Pop a few of these fluffy bites while sipping on a Greek coffee for a perfect end to any meal.
For a true taste of Greece, visit any one (or all) of these authentic Greek restaurants located in Bergen County. We promise you’ll be cheering “opa!” after enjoying these restaurants’ offerings.

Elia in East Rutheford

Elia {240 Hackensack Street, East Rutherford; 201.939.9292; elianj.com}
Dining at Elia is more than just a culinary experience, it is an immersion into contemporary Greek culture. Elia, which is Greek for ‘olive,’ currently resides in the former location of Park and Orchard in East Rutherford. Since its recent opening, Elia has become one of the most sought after Greek-Mediterranean restaurants in Bergen County. Due to its close proximity to Teterboro Airport, the restaurant attracts the likes of jetsetters, sports personalities, and even star-studded celebrities, including Alicia Keys. Even diners from beyond the county’s borders are making the trip to see what all the hype is about. With its modern Mediterranean décor and authentic Greek atmosphere, Elia aims to transport customers to the Greek Islands. Take for instance the quaint tables adorned with floral centerpieces, colorful ceramics sitting on floating shelves, and an open kitchen with a fresh fish display. The tasteful décor extends outdoors to the oversized patio (perfect for accommodating large parties). Patio umbrellas provide shade when dining alfresco and cushioned benches yield extra comfort. Enjoy the twinkle from the subtle pendant lights that hang above the patio.
In keeping with Greek culture—a culture that puts an emphasis on the family unit—it should come to no surprise that Elia is a mother-daughter establishment. The masterminds behind this Mediterranean oasis are Annamaria Adinolfi and her mother Anna Rosati. Tack on Tim Salouros (Adinolfi’s fiancé) as the General Manager, and Elia is a family affair. Helming the kitchen is Executive Chef Jose Luis Falcon. Dedicated to the art of Mediterranean cuisine, Chef Falcon prepares every single dish with passion. His menu consists of starters featuring an array of Greek cheeses, salads, a raw bar, and notable appetizers like Eggplant and Zucchini Chips and Lamb and Beef Kefte (mini meatballs topped with horiatiki relish and lemon yogurt sauce). Tantalizing signature main dishes include fresh-caught, whole fish served with lemon potatoes or boiled greens; braised duck served with zucchini terrine, potatoes, eggplant, and cauliflower béchamel found in the Duck Moussaka; and Seafood Pasta.
At Elia, diners can experience authentic Greek culture from the moment they walk through the restaurant’s doors.

Molos in Weehawken NJ

Molos {1 Pershing Road, Weehawken; 201.223.1200; molosrestaurant.com}
Guests will feel as if they are on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea at this gorgeous Greek establishment on the Hudson River. Boasting floor-to-ceiling glass windows and breathtaking views of the New York City skyline, Molos provides customers with an atmosphere as delicious as the food. Harkening back to the ancient Greek fishermen who provided fresh catches each day, Molos believes that seafood should be prepared fresh daily. The menu at Molos includes a raw bar, fish market selections, traditional Greek spreads, and a variety of main courses, salads, and desserts. Offering brunch, lunch, dinner, happy hours, and pre-fixe menu options, Molos aims to provide diners with variety while remaining grounded in the staples of Greek food and culture.

Greek Taverna {225 River Road, Edgewater; 201.945.8998; greektavernausa.com}
Traditional Greek cuisine meets modern environs at Greek Taverna. Diving right in, Greek Taverna offers a selection of cold and hot appetizers. Cold options include housemade Hummus and a traditional Tzatziki sauce made with shredded cucumbers, yogurt, dill, garlic dip, and olive oil. Hot appetizers like the Kalamarakia Tiganita (miniature fried calamari in a homemade marinara sauce), Taverna Grilled Vegetables, or Sautéed Mussels are a few delicious options. Guests can find exactly what entrée they are craving thanks to the separate categories found on the menu, including Traditional Greek Dishes, Fish and Seafood, and From the Grill. What’s comfort food without dessert? Finish the meal with the flaky treat, Baklava.

EONS {501 Route 17 South, Paramus; 201.523.9500; eonsgreek.com}
After years in the industry cooking for a multitude of impressive restaurants, George Georgiades is now calling the shots at his own eatery, EONS. Day in and out, Georgiades gets to cook the food of his heritage. His secret to success? Keeping it fresh, simple, and staying passionate. EONS is a wonderful alternative to a formal Greek dining experience as it boasts a grab-and-go type of menu without compromising on fresh and mouthwatering flavors. Here, guests can build their own pita wrap, rice bowl, or salad by choosing from a selection of proteins, sides, and toppings. Think Chipotle but the Greek version, and you have EONS.

Varka Estiatorio {30 North Spruce Street, Ramsey; 201.995.9333; varkarestaurant.com}
Varka Estiatorio defines itself by its commitment to fresh ingredients. Only choosing the best fishermen and exporters, Varka touts the freshest seafood on the block. Fish items are plentiful here, starting with appetizers like Greek Fisherman’s Chowder, Grilled Sardines, and Chargrilled Octopus. There is a section on the menu dedicated to seasonal fish entrées like Grilled Organic Salmon with orzo cherry tomatoes and broccoli rabe, and Halibut served with baby beets, pearl onions, purple potatoes, and citrus emulsion. Alongside the fresh oysters and shellfish bar, Varka offers the ultimate decadence: a build your own seafood tower. In addition to fish, this establishment also offers steaks, lamb chops, chicken, and vegetarian options.

Opa! Here are some other great Mediterranean restaurants in the area

Angelo’s Greek Taverna {245 Maywood Avenue, Maywood; 201.845.4278; angelosgreektavern}
Lunch, dinner, pick up, delivery, and catering? That’s the Angelo’s Greek Taverna way—offering patrons delicious Greek cuisine every day of the week. Executive Chef Angelo brings his wealth of cooking experience from his homeland of Greece to dole out traditional Greek plates to the Bergen County community.

GRK Grill {39 Union Avenue, Cresskill; 201.399.7670; grkgrillnj.com}
Indoor and outdoor seating as well as the option to order online for takeout makes this stylish restaurant both appealing and convenient. The extensive menu consists of classic and contemporary Greek dishes. Rumor has it, GRK Grill will unveil a new bar coming this spring.

Mykonos {440 Ridge Road, North Arlington; 201.991.5055; mykonosmenu.com}
This Greek establishment has an array of menu options from classic Greek dishes and freshly made pitas. Looking to introduce a little culture to your little one? Mykonos is ideal for families since the restaurant is equipped with a kid’s menu.

Santorini Taverna {2020 North Central Road, Fort Lee; 201.947.2055}
Santorini Taverna is your go-to destination during the summer months. Enjoy casual Mediterranean fare on the venue’s outdoor dining patio.

By Conner Turpanjian with Melissa Sorge