The problem is not with your set…

If all had gone according to plan, you would be seeing a photo of coriander basil spiced kielbasa, served with garlic oven-roasted potatoes and peas, corn and carrots that were sautéed in butter. The perfect comfort food for a night like tonight, where the temperature has dropped into the low 30’s (F) and the wind is kickin’ strong enough that crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel would be an experience you don’t want to remember. If only the camera had worked…

So instead, let me talk about our department holiday dinner a few night’s ago.  It was an awesome time at a well-kept secret in Norfolk, Virginia (maybe I shouldn’t mention it, then?)  Anyhow, if you find yourself in the Ghent area of Norfolk, specifically on Colley Avenue, check out Enrico’s.  It’s a family owned/operated Greek and Italian restaurant that looks kinda iffy on the outside but well worth the time to go inside.

The interior reminded one of our party of a classic bar from the thirties. Dark, rich tones; a certain earthiness. We had the back area to ourselves, cordoned off by a semi-transparent curtain that kept us separated yet still connected to the rest of the cafe. It was a nice touch that owner’s John and Maggie Tsouris decorated the elevated dining area with framed prints of Virginia Opera posters.

The menu had a little bit of Greece and a little bit more of Italy, all cooked with home recipes that I would guess have been in the Tsouris family for years. With 15 of us, we probably ordered over half the menu, including four fabulous chef’s specials.  First, however, we started our culinary adventure with appetizers. The hummas with pita and the dolmades were excellent. To be fair, not all of my dinner companions were “into” Greek food but in the end there were no appetizers left on the plates.  That should say something!

For an entree, three of us had the Souvlaki, tender pork loin grilled to medium on skewers, set on rice pilaf, surrounded by feta cheese and Greek olives. An eerie quiet descended upon our end of the table as we three lucky diners squelched our conversation in order to scarf the perfectly cooked pork. I don’t recall hearing much being said by the other dozen of us, either, so the grilled shrimp limone and all his friends must have been equally as astounding.

While not really a wine aficionado, I will say that Enrico’s wine list was just as popular as the menu. There were the obligatory bottles of Merlot (Aussie wine – Penfold as I recall) and Cabernet (Chilean.) The surprise hit, however was a Greek wine from John’s family hometown in Greece. A nice red wine, Amplelou gris red was the favorite of the night. We also noticed that, for whatever reason, there were no French wines on the list. Hmmm…no one complained.

Now, for those of you who have worked in the food service arena, you will know that no matter how good the food, the experience can be negated by poor service. Fortunately, our server matched the quality of the menu. She handled our party of 15 with a calm yet humorous demeanor. She not only knew the basic components of the four specials, she also knew how they were seasoned and cooked. This was not a $2.13 an hour “associate” who gets graded on how much flair they have pinned to their ballcap; no, our server was what we all hope for when we go out to spend our hard-earned pennies on dinner: pleasant, helpful and accurate. I heard numerous kudos being given by my companions, and I would bet those comments were not just said, they were meant.

John and Maggie Tsouris have a hit on their hands. Not too expensive, make Enrico’s Ristorante a stop on your next culinary excursion. Don’t forget to save room for dessert.  We were too full to have it!

Happy eating!  Oh yes, anyone have a good camera that needs a good home???

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