“Christos anesti. Alithos anesti!”
Christ is risen. Truly He is risen.
Throughout the world, members of the Greek Orthodox Church greeted each other. Sunday was Greek Easter. The greeting was also exchanged by the staff at Taverna Cretekou as they prepared a traditional Greek Easter feast.
“In Greece, Easter is a much bigger celebration than even Christmas,” said Savas Augstasiou, one of the waiters. “It’s a time for coming together and celebrating.”
The celebration begins with fasting.
“Some people really fast for 40 days,” said Christos Papaloizou, the manager of the King Street restaurant. “The breaking of the fast and then the Easter feast is very important to us.”
The breaking of the fast occurs on the Saturday before Easter, after the Easter vigil. “We eat mageritsa, a soup, because it is light and is a good way to prepare the stomach for the heavier feast on Easter,” said Papaloizou.
Mageritsa is made from lamb hearts and liver with lemon juice, stock, romaine and pieces of lamb meat. “You simmer it for about an hour and then it is ready to serve,” said George Maltabes, the chef.
Those who didn’t get an opportunity to eat mageritsa on Saturday got a chance to sample it as the second course in Taverna’s Easter feast.
“You always begin the Easter feast with tsoureki, our Easter bread and red eggs,” said Adriana Manousakis, Taverna’s owner. “Everyone takes an egg and hits it together with others at the table. The person whose egg does not break will have good luck for the entire year.”
After bread and soup, the staff served Easter Greek salad. “Lettuce does not grow well in Greece and is considered a luxury,” Manousakis said. “That’s why the only thing that is in a Greek Easter salad is green.”
THE MAIN COURSE was lamb roasted on the spit, baby suckling pig or fresh fish broiled and seasoned with olive oil, lemon and oregano. “We wash the baby lambs thoroughly and then rub them with olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, garlic and pepper,” said Maltabes. “Then we roast them on the spit for five to six hours. The lambs must be young, weighing no more than 28 pounds.”
This year, staff at Taverna roasted 12 baby lambs. “We used to roast 36 but many of our customers complained about the fat so now we give everyone a small piece of the roasted lamb and the remainder of the portion is from other lamb with less fat,” Manousakis said.
The suckling baby pig was baked with quinces, prunes and figs.
“We don’t roast them on the spit because they fall off,” Maltabes said. “We bake them for about three hours.”
Dessert was baklava, Greek custard or rice pudding. The meal was served with roasted potatoes and baby greens and was complimented with red, white or rose Greek wine.
“We began serving a traditional Greek Easter feast nearly 30 years ago, around the time that we opened,” Manousakis said. “A friend of mine who was a Gazette reporter wanted to write something about Greek Easter feasts and convinced me to serve one. The tradition has continued to this day.”
Taverna began serving on Sunday at noon and was completely booked until the last seating at 8 p.m.