Santorini moves to new turf but business still booms

No sign of a recession at popular Greek restaurant

All the appetizers may be ordered individually, but groups will likely prefer the sharable platters. The Greek Peasant Sampler, for example, is loaded with so much food that the servers must build up Madonna-like biceps after delivering a few. The platter offers several Greek-American greatest hits: a thick square of spinach pie, stuffed grape leaves topped with a bright lemon sauce, and thin slices of gyro meat with a side of tzatziki yogurt dip. It also includes a few lesser-known items, such as loukaniko, a spicy, fennel-tinged sausage, and a phyllo-wrapped pastichio, which is a bit like a portable moussaka. (It contains the same sweet-spicy ground lamb-and-beef mixture with a layer of pasta tubes and noodles to create a dense, protein-carb packet.)

An extra nine bucks adds a couple of petite lamb chops to the platter, and though they're small, they're certainly tasty, as the meat is marinated and cooked on a wood-fired grill to a tender, smoky deliciousness. (While we were discussing the chops on the phone, Christian excused himself for a second, and I heard him holler, "Hey, Mario, can you bring me a lamb appetizer?")

The chops were far better than the Saturday-night special of roasted leg of lamb stuffed with spinach, feta, and loukaniko sausage. I'd liked all its components when I'd eaten them as part of the sampler platter, but in this version the lamb meat was dry and bland—nothing like the chops—and the filling was so blah that the spinach might have been shredded newsprint for all the flavor it added. The other traditional dish I'd skip is the phyllo-topped custard on the dessert tray: Its texture was mealy, its sweetness was piercing, and the accompanying chocolate syrup had all the allure of Hershey's.

Santorini  Taverna: Is it a  family place or a party palace?
Jana Freiband
Santorini Taverna: Is it a family place or a party palace?

Still, among the vast selection of burgers, pizzas, pastas, strip steaks, and ahi tuna, I felt better about the Greek dishes that missed the mark than the American ones. Those I tried, a Greek pizza and a pasta special, weren't necessarily bad, just indistinct—the cheese-and-spinach stuffing in the ravioli tasting nearly the same as its pasta pouch.

The act of sharing good food always helps fuel festivities, so when Santorini's hits the mark, it feels like a welcome vacation from the area's ho-hum chain eateries. There's a reason the Nicklows' fans followed them out to the southwest suburbs—and it starts with an order of flaming cheese. 

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