This article is part of “Greek New York’s Finest,” our series dedicated to supporting Greek American-owned businesses in our home base of New York City that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This series of unique stories aims to bring these businesses more attention, publicity and support.
For more than a decade, two brothers have been operating one of the most beloved and innovative meat-inspired Greek restaurants on one of the busiest avenues in Astoria, Queens.
Peter and Chris Giannakas are the proprietors of Ovelia, an establishment which not only represents the best of the neighborhood’s prominently Greek character, but also embraces modern twists on traditional cuisine.
“We use the freshest and highest quality ingredients we can get our hands on,” Peter and Chris told The Pappas Post. “We serve up a unique brunch and Greek inspired dishes that reflect a great deal about who we are: Greek-Americans.”
The Giannakas brothers said they opened Ovelia in 2006 to share their “arsenal” of recipes and experience and to create something with traditional Greek undertones — but in a hip setting.
Ovelia’s signature dishes include the saganaki (fried Greek cheese) burger, eggs florentine made with spinach pie and baklava pancakes.
The restaurant posts regular images of its food options on Instagram (@oveliapsistaria).
Ovelia also serves signature cocktails such as “The Grexican” which blends Casamigos Mezcal and “soumada” — a traditional Cretan drink made from orgeat syrup, or the sweet syrup made from almonds.
“We wanted to steer away from the typical taverna style dining experience and give something a little more up-to-date to include twists on typical Greek ingredients and dishes,” the brothers said. “And all the while, our patrons can enjoy a great cocktail and modern music.”
Photographs / Darden Livesay, The Pappas Post
Connecting with the locals
Ovelia’s neighborhood reputation goes beyond its menu. Over the years, the Giannakas brothers have hosted local celebrations — sharing flavors and traditions of Greece with hundreds of passersby on Astoria’s 30th Avenue.
The brothers have hosted full lamb roasts on the sidewalk for the August 15th celebrations of the Virgin Mary, widely known in Greece as “Dekapentavgousto.”
Such celebrations hold true to the meaning of the restaurant’s name, as “Ovelia” in Greek refers to the ancient ritual of cooking lamb on a spit over an open flame.
New faces, same neighborhood
Astoria has changed “quite a bit,” according to Peter and Chris, who attribute the change to newly opened businesses and vibrant young professionals moving in to enjoy local food, recreation and leisure.
But despite these new developments, the area still keeps its charm.
“You can find anything in this neighborhood,” Peter said. “And it still has managed to remain just that — a neighborhood!”
Ovelia is located on 34-01 30th Ave. in Astoria, New York 11103. Visit their website for more information.
Video footage by Darden Livesay; video editing by Maria Wilson
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