Checking OpenTable for a dinner reservation for Friday night (May 5, 2017), I saw a recommendation for Galazio (click here to see their complete listing in our Food & Drink Business Directory), a Greek restaurant in La Plata, Charles County. It has good ratings on OpenTable, Yelp!, and Google. The Galazio menu looked pretty good on Facebook — they don’t appear to have a website, but use Facebook instead.
The menu listed a number of Greek dishes I enjoy. I then checked with my wife Cindy to see if she’d be up for Greek food. When she said yes, I used OpenTable to make a reservation for us at 8 PM.
As for the name, Galazio — γαλάζιο in Greek — it means “light blue.” As you can see, the color is used in their flag. In Greece you’ll see blue doors, shutters, chairs, and roofs — the color is quite popular. It’s also the color of the sky and the sea. Oddly, though, there wasn’t much sign of blue in or on the restaurant itself.
Fortunately, the traffic wasn’t too heavy on Friday evening, and we made the 14 mile journey south in about 30 minutes, and arrived on time for our 8 PM reservation. The restaurant is in a free-standing building in the parking lot of a strip mall. Most of the parking spaces near it were taken. After parking, we walked up to the door, passing an outdoor patio with large standing propane heaters. It had been raining off and on all day, so we weren’t surprised to see that no one was using the patio.
When we entered the restaurant, we were greeted by the hostess, who seated us and provided us with food menus. Strangely, she didn’t give us a wine menu — I guess you have to ask for one of those. The dining area was close to full, with several family groups scattered about, and some kids here and there. With no rugs on the floor and an exposed-beam ceiling, it was a bit noisy. The horseshoe shaped bar also had a good number of patrons, and there seemed to be wine racks everywhere.
We had plenty of time to review the menu, as it took quite a while for a waitress to show-up. Once she did, though, things moved along well. First, we ordered drinks: a Makers Mark Manhattan, up, for me and a Chardonnay for Cindy. And, two glasses of water. We’re never sure anymore whether or not water will come with the meals, but from our waitress’s surprise at us ordering waters, it must be a standard part of Galazio’s service.
Appetizers and drinks
We also wanted to place our appetizer order with the drink order. There were a lot of great dishes on the appetizer list: tzatziki, calamarakia, spanakopita, dolmades, saganaki, and keftedakia among them (I would have enjoyed ordering one of each!). Our first question to the waitress was how big are the appetizers — are they meant for a single person, or would one be enough for the two of us?
The waitress replied that the appetizers are sized for sharing, so one dish would probably do for us. If we wanted more after seeing our first appetizer, we could always add on to the order. Cindy especially wanted to try to the spanakopita — a casserole or pie, made with a filling of spinach and feta cheese, with a layer of phyllo pastry dough on the top and bottom, baked until the phyllo is golden brown — so that’s what we asked for.
The waitress soon returned with water, and a bread basket, along with a dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping the bread. She said our drinks would be along soon after. When the drinks arrived, Cindy was happy with her Chardonnay, but my Manhattan was more than a bit off.
Not only was my Manhattan served in an Old Fashioned glass instead of a cocktail glass, but it was also not chilled. This has happened to me a couple of times before, when somehow my order for “up” is interpreted as being not just without ice, but never having been touched by the stuff. It was therefore at room temperature (it should have been put in a cocktail shaker with ice, stirred, and then poured through a strainer into a cocktail glass). Fortunately, my water glass had plenty of ice and I was able to save the day by transferring some of the ice into my Manhattan.
With drinks in hand, and bread at the ready, we placed our order for our main courses. Cindy asked for the moussaka, which she had never tried before. I went for an old favorite, the Pastitsio.
The appetizer arrived fairly quickly. The spanakopita was served on a bed of greens with a couple of slices of feta cheese. It looked lovely and was definitely enough for the two of us. It tasted great, too. We were really enjoying the spanakopita, but unfortunately the kitchen’s timing was off — our entrées were delivered before we finished the spanakoptia.
When that sort of things happens, the temptation is to refuse the dishes and tell them to bring them back when we’re ready. But all too often that just means you make the staff unhappy (not a good idea), and you’ll just get re-warmed (if you’re lucky) food when you ask for it. So we shuffled things around on the table and made room. We also ordered another round of drinks, and I made sure to make mine “on-the-rocks” for the second go ’round.
Differences between moussaka and pastitsio
The dishes looked similar, but there are a few key differences. My wife’s moussaka is described on the menu as “layers of eggplant, potatoes, spiced ground beef topped with a cheese Béchamel sauce.” Cindy loves eggplant and that was a big reason she ordered the moussaka. Unfortunately, she didn’t really care for the dish — such is the risk of trying new things. The flavor was OK, but what she found odd was the juxtaposition of the texture of the potatoes with the eggplant and ground beef. She did like it enough to bring it home, though — her plan: remove the potatoes and eat the rest!
My main course, pastitsio, is described in the menu as “layers of noodles, spiced ground beef, topped with a cheese Béchamel sauce.” The dish is often referred to as Greek lasagna — often enough that if you do a search on “Greek lasagna” you will get a bunch of pastitsio recipes. It’s a dish I’ve had many times. Galazio’s version was pretty tasty. Most versions I’ve had used elbow macaroni, but this version used straight macaroni. The only problem I ran into was that the cook apparently sprinkled some macaroni pieces on top before putting the dish under the broiler. This resulted in a few small pieces so crisp that they were inedible. Given how good the rest of the dish was, discarding a few pieces of hard macaroni was hardly a problem.
Happy birthday, Greek style
As we were enjoying our entrées, it was announced at the bar that it was time to sing Happy Birthday to one of the customers, Stacey. This proved to be a distinctly Greek version of the Happy Birthday song, which pretty much everyone in the restaurant sang. It went something like this:
- Happy birthday to you.
- Happy birthday to you.
- Happy birthday dear Stacey.
- Happy birthday to you!
From a little research I’ve done, Opa (Ώπα in Greek) originally meant something like “Oops,” which was uttered after someone made a mistake. But it has evolved into a term of acclamation. Opa may also be accompanied by the breaking of plates at weddings and other celebrations. Friday evening’s birthday celebration, however, caused no harm to any crockery,
Once we finished our meal, the waitress stopped back by our table to inquire if we wanted dessert. Before she could even offer a dessert menu or tell us what they had, I asked if they had my favorite: Galaktoboureko (γαλακτομπούρεκο in Greek, or a milk/dairy pastry). When she said “Of course,” I knew we had hit gold. Far too many places I’ve come across offer baklava, ice cream, and a few other items, but it’s rare to find a place that makes Galaktoboureko.
The dessert has a phyllo crust on the top and bottom with a custard in the middle. A syrup made with water, honey, lemon, and perhaps rose water and cinnamon covered the dessert. The Galaktoboureko was piping hot with whipped cream on the side. It was to die for!
We’ve already discussed our next trip back to Galazio. We’re pretty sure we’ll order several appetizers and then go for the Galaktoboureko. It is worth the trip by itself. ♦