Chris' Pizza in Toco HillsBy Maureen McCarthy
Who can resist a restaurant where the logo is a poor man's rendition of Zorba the Greek dancing? He frolics on the menus and is featured on coffee cups -- which are for sale should you want to take him home. You just might.
Don't let the modest name fool you. Chris' Pizza's simple storefront opens to a bright interior painted, plastered and "plastiqued" in the blue and white of those mythical Grecian islands where other colors must be outlawed. Rudimentary but endearing paintings on the wall are surely the originals of some restaurant worker's relative. Smatterings of such personal touches are mixed with arbitrary photos of Greek war helmets, fake foliage and a white water fountain that was never meant to flow.
Surprisingly, it all comes together well with an unintended but comfortable mix of ethnic elegance and classy Americana kitsch. As does the food, which offers something for most everyone at prices that may not have changed since the restaurant opened more than 20 years ago.
THE GYROS ARE HEROS: The menu offers more than just Americanized Greek wraps and snacks. The service is quick and quietly competent, and there are adventurous eats. Start with the avgolemono soup, a lemon chicken and egg broth speckled with rice and onions and herbs. Equally comforting is the mousaka -- layers of eggplant, meat and more topped with a creamy béchamel sauce -- a sort of Greek lasagna. The Greek combo would be a romantic share, as it includes a sample of gyro meat, souvlaki, chicken breast, potatoes and spanakopita and plenty of pita and a Greek salad for just $12.60.
SLICE OF LIFE: There is a reason the pizza is part of the namesake here, as it is exceptionally good, with an unusual crunch to the mid-thick crust. The crust holds up well (no sog factor) to a light brushing of sauce and heaping portions of bright feta cheese and various rustic meats and veggies. Try the special white sauce as opposed to the classic red -- it creates a great palette for palate-pleasing toppings such as fried breaded eggplant, briny calamata olives and snappy pepperoncinis. A small individual pizza is only $3.30, and the loaded 16-inch runs around $20. Spaghetti can also be mixed with a variety of ingredients and is a glamorous pauper plate at just over $3 for a small mound served with garlic bread. Lunch specials will make you swear off the drive-thru for an even more affordable combo of a souvlaki pita wrap with garlicky tzatziki sauce, house potatoes and a soft drink for just $4.75.
IT'S ALL GREEK TO ME: Homemade desserts include honey, custard and nut-encrusted wonders like baklava and galactoboureko, a custard-filled filo-wrapped pillow. With desserts starting at just $1.40 and wine served for $2.40 a glass, one can create a cheap party at their table, dream of those Greek islands where all is blue and white, and there is some likeness of Zorba, who's sure to be dancing.
Team Little Tart
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