Day for family, feasting in Greektown

Restaurant holds meal for Greek Orthodox Easter

April 28, 2003|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

Theodossios Kohilas didn't have time to enjoy the Greek Orthodox Easter meal yesterday; the owner of Ikaros restaurant in Greektown was too busy making sure everyone else was.

Busy, that is, overseeing the preparation of 30 lambs, 1,000 sweet Easter breads, 800 red-dyed hard-boiled eggs and more than 100 quarts of mageritsa soup -- staples of the traditional Greek Easter feast.

The kitchen staff bustled. The ovens poured out heat. Waitresses wearing the country's blue and white colors zipped from table to table, plopping down plates full of food and taking away ones eaten clean.

More than 400 hungry customers were expected at the Eastern Avenue restaurant for the holiday -- which was celebrated yesterday by Orthodox Christians worldwide, a week after non-Orthodox Easter services.

"I love it all, but lamb, of course, is a Greek traditional food," said Basil A. Thomas, 87, who immigrated to the United States from Greece with his parents when he was 10 months old. "I cannot recall when I did not have lamb on Easter."

The retired judge from Towson visits Ikaros religiously on the holiday. Some years, he and his party take up half a room. This year, they explained somewhat apologetically, they could fill "only" one long table.

Among those with the group were Canton residents Jason Pappas, 35, and his fiancee, Cindy Erich, 29. "Christos Anesti" -- or "Christ is risen" -- they both said in Greek as they met the clan before the meal.

Erich, who is deputy director of Greektown Community Development Corp., described her initiation into a Greek family as being "exactly like the movie" -- referring to My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

"Incredibly loving, incredibly passionate. They're amazing," Erich said of her in-laws-to-be. What's more, she explained, "I've grown to love feta cheese and olives and spanakopita."

Easter is Greece's most celebrated religious holiday. Many worshipers observe a 40-day fast during which they eat no meat or dairy products. The fast normally is broken after a midnight resurrection service that heralds the arrival of Easter Sunday.

"We've all been on our fast for 40 days, so a lot of things are going to be made available to us," said Despina Horst, 59, a parish council member at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation on West Preston Street, who attended the 11 a.m. agape service, or service of love, there yesterday.

By the time that got under way, Kohilas already had been at Ikaros for about six hours. He had to start the lambs early because they take at least four hours to cook. Traditionally, the lambs are roasted outside on spits, but Kohilas couldn't do that at the restaurant -- which he opened in 1969 and runs with his wife, Georgia, and brother Xenos -- for safety reasons.

In addition to lamb, lamb soup, Easter bread and red eggs, which symbolize the blood of Christ, chefs Nikos Korizis and Nikitas Karoutsos were preparing roasted potatoes, fried calamari, spinach pie and a wealth of Greek desserts, including baklava.

You didn't have to be Greek to appreciate the day.

"I enjoy the Greek Easter more than I do the American," said Christina Staewen, 73, of Harford County, who has no Greek blood in her but has been coming to Ikaros to celebrate the adopted holiday with friends for 22 years. "It's different. I like their culture. I like their nationality. I like their ways of celebrating."

"Easter is worth celebrating twice," said another non-Greek patron, Margaret Diem of Bel Air, before eagerly loading up a plate with Greek salad.

"By the time you get to the dinner, you need a box to go," said companion Liz Pfeiffer, a retired state social services worker also from Bel Air whose favorite Greek delicacy is the lemon soup.

Frank Michaelides, 50, of Timonium had a reservation at Ikaros for his wife, Judy, his son Ruhley and 21 other members of his family, including his mother, godmother and several cousins. Some came from as far as Las Vegas.

Six-year-old Ruhley, who preferred regular bread over the special Easter kind, summed up his favorite part of the holiday in two words: "The food."

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