A taste of the holy for the men

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October 21, 2007|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Father Michael Pastrikos tends his flock at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, then looks after the strays in Greektown cafes. After services, he pops into the kafeneia with bits of holy bread for the no-shows.

It is not communion. Unless you're bedridden, you have to come to church for that. But the bread - made at home as an offering, according to a special recipe, and cut into squares - is considered holy. Called antidoro, it is offered after communion, at the end of services.

Since Pastrikos came to the parish in August, the bread can also be had in the smoky little cafes where men - and only men - gather to play cards, talk old-country politics and avoid church. Pastrikos says he comes as a friend, not as a religious truant officer.

"You can stay out of church, but God still loves you, and he knows you're right around the corner," said Pastrikos, who came from a parish in Pensacola, Fla. "The church is to extend its hand, to embrace."

Born in Greece but raised in a Greek community outside Pittsburgh, Pastrikos acquired a love for cafes if not coffee. (He drinks Coke.) "This was the Greek man's recreation, to go to the kafeneion," he said.

Pastrikos makes his rounds in a clergyman's collar but not vestments, which are reserved for services.

He has been well received. "He's the first one [who] ever did this," said John Zoumadakis, 64, a retired painter of the Bay Bridge, among other things. "It's nice for the priest to be with the people. You don't have to be every day, 100 percent, at the church to be with the Greeks, you know?"

Pavlos Dillis, owner of Baltimore Delight Restaurant, said his place fills up whenever Pastrikos takes a window seat. Could be the heavenly moussaka, but Dillis thinks not.

"He has a big heart," Dillis said. "And he's a very humble man and he has the love of the people."

Looking a little ugly out in the 1st District

Lots of conspiracy theories out there swirling around Robert Banks' entrance into the race in the 1st Congressional District. Most of them have it that somebody got Banks to run to help Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, by splitting the anti-incumbent vote in the Republican primary.

Personally, I think The Pink Crab put him up to it, but the preppy pol denies it.

"I am exercising my constitutional right to seek office," he said. "Ever since I can remember, I've wanted to be the gentleman from the 1st District."

Helen Delich Bentley is among those urging Banks to get out of the race, according to Banks, who was Bentley's political director and special assistant when she was in Congress. Bentley did not return messages seeking comment.

According to Banks, Bentley phoned him the other day to say he didn't have "a prayer" and that he's "ruining this for Andy." That would be state Sen. Andy Harris, who also is running and just got the nod from Bob Ehrlich. Banks used to work for Ehrlich, too, as special assistant to the governor's transportation secretary.

There's got to be a plot in there somewhere.

Never cheese off the people who hand out the awards

Well, apparently I've won my last City Paper award.

I wrote that the folks at Charm City Cakes didn't appreciate the paper's "Best Form Over Function" honor. City Paper Editor Lee Gardner was upset because a deleted paragraph break - An editor did it, honest. You know how they are - put Gardner's response to the bakery in the graf with my own comments.

Readers might mistakenly infer that it was Gardner, and not yours truly, who opined that a bakery that offers 50 flavors must take taste seriously, he complained via e-mail. Of course, the reader would have to assume some quotation marks got dropped in the process, but we all know newspaper bloopers happen. (See anti-editor rant, above.)

"Also, I'm surprised that you didn't disclose that we named you Best Sun Columnist in the same Best of Baltimore issue," he wrote. "If you're calling our taste and judgment into question, that would seem to me to be pertinent information."

He's right. If anything calls City Paper's taste and judgment into question, it's the decision to give me an award! Still, it's a bummer to tick off CP, which offers the only prize I can hope to win. Last time I checked, they don't give out Pulitzers for cutesy blurbs.

Connect the dots

Money magazine named Baltimore's Mount Vernon one of the 35 best neighborhoods for retirees. "The architecture is more Europe than Maryland," said the magazine, which also noted nearby cultural attractions. Mount Vernon was up there with Boston's Back Bay, downtown San Francisco and San Diego's Marina District. But Mount Vernonites shouldn't let it go to their heads. Money also put downtown Detroit on its list. ... WHFS' Ed Norris is Baltimore's No. 1 local talk radio host among listeners ages 25 to 54. But he does not, WWIN-FM 95.9 wants you to know, have more listeners than Michael Baisden, whose syndicated show airs on that station. Baisden averages 89,000 weekly listeners in that age group, according to the latest Arbitron ratings. The commish draws 49,100. WHFS says Baisden's program doesn't count as a talk show because he mixes talk with music.

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