Demitrios Avgerinos has the look of a chef whose cooking you must try. His white apron is not spotless and he wears it like a man who “lives to cook.”
“From a young boy, I’ve worked in restaurants. I was thirteen years old and I helped the chef,” he said. Demitrios came to Baltimore from Chios, Greece in 1970. “A land of opportunity and good people.” Demitrios was the chef on a merchant marine ship before he landed in the U.S.
“Fresh” was the word my companion and I kept using to describe the food we ate at Demitrios’ restaurant, Acropolis at 4714 Eastern Avenue in Greektown. (Open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 AM to 10 PM, 11 PM on Friday and Saturday.)
Demitrios described the manner in which he selects the fish he serves at Acropolis: “The eyes of the fish must be clear. When I gut the fish, if it is not firm, it is not fresh.”The day’s special, blackened sea bass, was from the waters of Ocean City, Maryland. Demitrios broiled it in olive oil, fresh parsley, lemon, salt and pepper. The flaky, white meat melted in my mouth. It was simple, flavorful and beautifully presented for $24.95.
“Everything is homemade here,” said the Acropolis’ manager, George Avgerinos, Demitrios’ son, who started work in the family business when he was twelve. “I’ve been a busboy, dishwasher, waiter, you name it,” he said.
George played soccer at Catonsville Community College before he married Phaedra, a teacher and they had Dimitrios, six years old, Tsambika, three, and Kosmas, eleven months old.
George’s mother, Despina, makes and rolls all of the Acropolis pastries by hand. We ate several. The spinach pie, $5.95, which was baked in Despina’s flakey filo dough, was browned and piping hot. It had a creamy spinach taste. In fact, the blend of spinach and feta with the pastry was excellent.If you have come to the Acropolis Restaurant for the Greektown Readings, you may have tried the spinach pie. The readings are held once a month and the spinach pie is served along with a selection of Greek specialties. The Greektown Reading Series is hosted for free at the Acropolis and features local and national authors who read from their work. A celebration of the arts, the readings also showcase local painters and musicians. On Thursday, March 29, the next Greektown reading takes place at 7 PM.
Another of the specialties offered at the Greektown Reading Series is the Acropolis stuffed grape leaves, also called dolmathes. We tried them before our meal as an appetizer for $6.75. The dolmathes were served warm. The leaves were crunchy, tasted fresh and the rice and ground beef were deliciously blended with herbs.“These are the best stuffed grape leaves I have ever tasted,” my companion said. “Acropolis has such a superb representation of Greek food.”
Acropolis also serves Greek wine. We got to sample three of them. Demestic Red, which was light and full flavored, is $5 a glass. The Kretikos, an effervescent, drier red wine is $6 a glass, and it was our preference. A third glass of wine, sold for $5 a glass, is Maurodephe, a sweeter red wine, which reminded me of brandy. Our waiter, Vasilios Philippou, a Baltimore native with deep Greek roots, told us many of the restaurant’s customers prefer the sweeter wine for dessert.
Vasilios, whose cousin is Jason Filippou the executive director for development at the Greektown Community Development Corporation, surprised us with hummus and tirokafteri, each served with grilled pita bread for $5.50. Tirokafteri, a feta dip, had a taste that was just spicy enough to give it a kick and the pita was fresh and soft; perfect.My companion ordered the chicken souvlaki platter for $14.95 that comes with a Greek salad, pita bread, tzatziki and roasted potatoes. The savory pieces of chicken were seasoned to perfection and the roasted potatoes were a delight. They had a buttery, lemony flavor, though they were roasted in olive oil and oregano. Delicious.
The Greek salad, which is also offered in a small portion for $6.95 or a larger serving for $11.95, was beautifully presented with a gravy pitcher of Acropolis’ homemade creamy house dressing. The salad had tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, black olives, green peppers and generous slices of feta cheese with oregano sprinkled on them.
We picked a Sunday to dine at the Acropolis. Free honey balls, called loukoumades, are served with every meal on Sundays. The loukoumades tasted like fluffy doughnuts. Sweet and airy. Wonderful.We also had galaktoboureko for $3, which Demitrios described as lemon custard, made with the citrus of lemons, milk, eggs and vanilla. It is rolled in Despina’s homemade filo dough and baked. The Acropolis serves it in a honey syrup with cinnamon and cloves. The honey taste of the galaktoboureko was blended with the creamy, delightful filling.
“It tastes a little like a wonderful homemade baklava without the nuts,” my companion said. “Very light. Not heavy.”
Opened on December 1, 1987, the Acropolis is celebrating a quarter century of serving generations of customers who have been coming from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and all over Maryland.
“My father has always been a chef,” said George Avgerinos, who works side by side with Demitrios in the kitchen.
“I dreamed about cooking here,” Demitrios added. “My grandfather told me how good America was.” Indeed, Demitrios met his wife, Despina, in Baltimore. Though both are from the same Greek island, they did not know each other. “I was from the north and she was from the south of Chios,” he said. They married in 1974.
Demitrios Avgerinos smiled, “From the first day I arrived in America, I have been happy here.”
Photos: Caryn Coyle