When most folks in Long Island think of Greek food, their mind travels to piles of Gyro meat and giant murals of Mykonos. Gladly, my visit to Taverna 38 helped to destroy that misconception with an authentic yet upscale dining experience. Owners John Alexopoulos and Claudio Peralta have created something truly special.
Being a native Islander, I’m fairly used to walking into a Greek restaurant and never bring impressed with the decor. Usually the setup is bare bones and the focus is on the food which is also predictable. Taverna 38 provides a warm and intimate setting for dinner and family gatherings. The banquets seating was the first thing I noticed, covered in white leather and studded with crystals and with matching white chairs. The tables had a finish that resembled the tone of white birch. Really great touch.
The decor is not the main highlight though the authentic Greek food is, with a specific focus on fresh seafood. They were out of some items since it was Sunday and as we know the market is closed on that day. I was informed by our server Latinia that most of the recipes were from the owner John’s father, who has perfected many classics and took specific care to make his dishes stand out. I can safely say that he succeeded.
My companion and I started with Dolmades, Saganaki and the Loukaniko as per suggestion. Normally Dolmades are overly brined and spiced. What we were presented with was slightly warmed and had a beautifully balanced level of acid and spice, that were flavorful and never overpowering. Personally I’ve never been impressed by Dolmades, but Taverna 38 has made me a believer. The Loukaniko served over pepper and onions was my favorite, which was in fact homemade and the best I have ever had. The texture reminded me of an Italian Sopressata. It was well spiced but not overpowering, my friend and I could not get enough. The Saganaki which of course was flambéed right in front of us was salty in the best sense of the word. Another must try.
As we moved through our meal, my companion and I switched over to wine from cocktails. The cocktails for the record were super fun. I was pleased when they offered me two choices, it allowed me to taste and select the best pair for my entree. Since the market was closed, I opted for the Arnisio Kotsi or better known as braised Lamb shanks served over Orzo and covered in Tomato sauce, which had the extra dimension of wine. The shank itself was perfect with the meat falling off the bone and not at all gamey as Lamb can be. The Orzo balanced the dish out and provided a great vehicle for the sauce. The tomato sauce featured carrots and was cooked for some time, providing a certain sweetness that is rare when eating out. This Italian was very impressed.
My companion opted for the Garides Pistes with Greek fries since she was not a pilaf person. The shrimp were fresh and delicately seasoned with lemon, oregano and extra virgin olive oil. There was a nice balance between the flavor of the shrimp and the fire of the grill. The Greek fries, while not my personal selection were different with the added flavor of oregano and oil.
I absolutely recommend not skipping the desserts. We both indulged in the homemade Baklava and Galaktoboureko . Being a fan of both, I was excited to see what Taverna did differently and can without a doubt say they are the best I have ever had. The baklava was warmed and had a nice caramelization which is unusual with the nuts having a healthy mix of cinnamon and I want to say nutmeg. The Galaktoboureko, which has always been a personal favorite, was a complete revelation . Warmed with thin layers of phyllo dough the custard completely shone through. Hints of orange layered into a rich and non grainy custard that made it heavenly.
Taverna 38 delivered on every level. From the great service and decor to the authentic Greek fare it was a beyond enjoyable experience and I look forward to my next visit. Til then though dreams of Loukaniko and Galaktoboureko. More info on Taverna 38 can be found here.