Christina's has designs on Greek food
Christina’s in Newton Highlands has walls covered with faux ostrich (could it be crocodile?), five chandeliers in the dining room with some purple prisms and a stunning amount of wattage all around, more purple accents everywhere, sturdy columns as in ancient Greece, silver-trimmed banquettes, black chairs with silver upholstery and rhinestones embedded on the backs, a huge bas relief on one wall (“It’s always Alexander,’’ observes my friend), and pearlized off-white place mats. Christina Patsios wanted to be an interior decorator and she has showcased all her ideas in one place.
If you think you’re on the set of a movie, duck into the red and black restrooms. Clark Gable is staring at the ladies, Marilyn Monroe at the men. The food is Greek and Italian. But we’re here for the Greek. When you get a great waiter, you’re in for a good night. If you don’t, Christina herself may step in, wait on you, and head to the kitchen to cook for you.
Kefalograviera saganaki ($8.99) is a deliciously running slice of haloumi cheese that is lightly dipped in flour and fried briefly until the edges are golden and the cheese melts. Spoon it onto the bread - like pita but thicker, with more flavor, and warm - and you’ll be in heaven. Melintzanosalata ($8.99) is a whole baby eggplant, roasted and scooped out, then refilled with the tender flesh, grilled peppers, and feta. Baked feta ($8.99) is heated in beautifully seasoned fresh tomato sauce, with just enough salt from the cheese.
Main courses are large enough to split. Souvlaki ($15.99) comes with two skewers of juicy pork, salad, a vegetable skewer, and the Greek yogurt-garlic sauce tzatziki in a little cup fashioned from a daikon, its edges dipped in food coloring. “You eat with your eyes,’’ Patsios tells me. One night Parmesan fries, which also come with the dish, are cold and greasy. Another, the fries with shrimp skewers ($16.99) are delicious, but the large pink seafood is slightly overcooked.
Beefteki gemisto ($14.99) is a tiny ground beef football that doesn’t look like much, till you break it open to find a nugget of feta inside, the meat in its tomato sauce wonderfully juicy. Perhaps the best dish isn’t even on the menu: papoutsaki, an eggplant stuffed with onions and mushrooms that Patsios makes for us after we watch the couple beside us order, eat dinner, chat with her, then settle the bill, all while we sit facing an empty bread basket. We had asked our waiter if we could order papoutsaki - the friend dining with me had eaten it all summer in Greece - but we were told there wasn’t any. When Patsios noticed that our order never arrived, she cooked for us.
Patsios and her husband, Dimitrios Ourgantzithis, opened the cafe in July. They were both born in Greece. She grew up in Sharon, married Ourgantzithis, and went with him to Sweden, where he lived and where they own restaurants in Stockholm and Uppsala. Both are similar to Christina’s, she says. A son, Angelo, came here to help out.
You sit facing a glass case filled with Athan’s desserts. Order Patsios’s own creamy rice pudding ($4.99), which is surprisingly light (but is the whipped cream from a can?), or baklava ($5.99), made with walnuts, pistachios, and pecans, exceptionally crisp and not an inch too sweet.
Patsios stops at every table in the room, working the clientele like a seasoned politician. Her outfits are worth the trip. Sometimes they match the decor.
Sheryl Julian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.