Oh, there are unforgettable feasts at Vasili’s
There are a few people you meet who absolutely love working with, presenting and/or serving food that you can’t help but be impressed by their infectious energy. Julie White is one of those local creatures.
As owner of Vasili’s Greek Restaurant on Santa Cruz’s Westside, White and her staff certainly know how to serve authentic Greek meals—hell, let’s just call them feasts—but what truly stands out is that you really can taste the “love” in all the food here. Four of us soon discovered this during a recent outing at the popular restaurant and the experience only seemed to remove a rather annoying eating inhibition I had imposed on myself earlier in the day. This isn’t the place to eat less. More is better, so … bring it on.
We were sitting there lost in the expansive menu when one of us broke out into a verbal song and dance, and soon began pondering the effectiveness of a certain business partnership. It prompted somebody else to question the rationale behind other people’s bizarre behaviors in their lives and the curve balls life tends to toss our way. Fortunately, somebody suggested tastier balls—Vasili’s Greek Meatballs and we were soon making our order.
A bottle of Kouros Nemea wine ($18) arrived. This savage dry, full-bodied red—kudos to those fresh berry and plums—wonderfully disappears in the mouth with reckless abandon. Its arrival seemed to foreshadow the next few hours, which clearly were to revolve around one thing: letting the outside world go and allowing ourselves to devour the here and now—guiltlessly and with our fierce appetites.
So many things began arriving at the table, that I lost track of which came first. It reminded me of all the holidays I shared with my Polish relatives back in Chicago. You never knew who was going to show up at the door and after a while, you find yourself surprised by all the people in the room with you. This was the case with the amazing dishes suddenly before us.
Where to begin? There were cheeses—feta and kassin—of which I could not stop picking up and shoving into my mouth. There was fresh bread, too, and none of it was stale or hard. The olive oil used was, as one of us quickly blurted out—somewhat orgasmically, I must say—“ridiculously good.” The plate of bread quickly vanished but was soon replaced with another.
And then … more tempting creatures arrived. The Vegetarian Briami dish ($14.95) is a expertly balanced Greek-style casserole, buoyed by layers of eggs and potatoes. But you’ll appreciate the way White and her chefs make good use of the zucchini, eggplant, green beans, bell peppers, tomatoes and mint found here, too.
It’s hard not to get lost in such eye candy. Your excitement level just naturally heads North—it doesn’t help when three delicious dips are placed upon your table, too. Warmed, fresh pita bread on hand, we dove right in and sampled the troika—tzatziki (white), taramosalata (red) and the Skordalia, an insanely creamy potato-garlic beast that’s unforgettable.
We were filling up fast, but more dishes arrived, one of Vasili’s stand out courses, in fact—the Souvlaki Plate ($15.95). You can’t go wrong with this. The dish is offered with a choice of tender slices of roasted lamb, eight keftethakia or two skewers of marinated chicken breast or pork tenderloin. This, too, is served with hand-made pita bread and tzatziki. We chose the chicken skewers.
“Tastes like heaven,” was the consensus. True. The perfectly cooked chicken breast was wonderfully tender.
We noshed onward, and occasionally dipped into the Greek Meatballs before us, which somebody referred to as “deep-fried balls of love.” To which I immediately responded with: “Well, if you’re going to have ‘balls of love’ in your life, deep-fried isn’t a bad way to go.”
There’s more. The alpha dish at the table was ready to be experienced—the night’s special, a lamb shank. Now, if you happen to be here on an evening when a special such as this is served, treat yourself and order it. This fantastic, juicy creature was bathed in the richest of ingredients, accompanied by large chunks of tender potatoes and beans. The meat was wonderfully attended to before it arrived—so juicy if fell right off the bone.
This wasn’t just dinner, it was one of those rare culinary journeys that feed the soul. There’s nothing like a memorable meal and Vasili’s apparently knows how to give birth to them. But there’s so much more to note—everything from it’s full extensive menu (from moussaka and feta burgers to the pork gyros and veggie plate—you sort of lose yourself in the abundance that is available to you here.
And not many food portals can offer that.
Vasilis Greek Restaurant, 1501A Mission St., Santa Cruz. Beer and wine. Open Wednesday & Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Sunday noon to 9 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Call 458-9808, or visit vasilisgreekrestaurant.com.