By Suzanne Parker
Galini Seafood Restaurant and Caterers
33-12 36th Ave, Long Island City
Galini is a traditional seafood restaurant in Astoria with a pronounced Greek accent. It has operated at this location for about eight years. Greek cuisine is emphasized in the majority of its appetizers and side dishes, while the entrees are a mixed bag of Greek- and American-style fish, seafood and meats.
Galini’s spacious main dining room is replete with the obligatory seafaring accouterments like ships’ wheels, stuffed fish, lanterns, and paintings of Greek harbor scenes with weathered ships’ captains. You can cruise along the bar to check out the catches of the day. The tables surround a large dance floor. It is a popular spot for parties, and if you go on a weekend, you’re likely to rub up against a group celebrating something.
Live music on the weekends begins at 7 p.m. Resident musicians include Demitri on the keyboard, Stratis on the electrified bouzouki, and songstress Maria. They perform Greek pop music, soft rock, mellow jazz, and whatever else might be requested. You can try out your Zorba moves on the dance floor, or any other kind of moves as the music takes you.
As I said, Galini’s appetizer offerings are decidedly Greek. While nibbling the complimentary bruschetta, we chose saganaki plus zucchini and eggplant to start. The saganaki consists of pan seared kefalograviera cheese, a semi-firm sheep cheese that stands up to heat without becoming runny. We were presented with three thick, elongated slices that visually resembled lightly breaded fish filets. They tasted like fried mozzarella sticks with more of a bite. Not bad, but more like something you would want to eat a little bit of and share with your table. We thoroughly enjoyed the zucchini and eggplant appetizer. Breaded fried rounds of zucchini and eggplant are served with a hyper-garlicky serving of scordalia. The scordalia, a dip of potatoes and garlic, was perfect.
Next came a disappointing Greek salad. We wondered how this could be. What could be more of a sure thing than a Greek salad in Greek Astoria? The salad, while ample in size (a “small” is more than adequate for two), and generous enough with the expected lettuce, tomatoes, cukes, olives, feta, and onions, was totally lacking in oregano, the herbal seasoning that usually gives this salad its personality. We asked for some oregano, and were promptly brought a dish of it to sprinkle on.
Char-broiled whole grilled fish served “ladolemeno” style (marinated in olive oil and lemon) is the signature dish of Galini’s. It is served at market price by the pound, and one fish usually feeds at least two diners. We chose sea bass, which arrived perfectly grilled, moist, and meaty (can you call fish meaty?). It comes with Greek lemon potatoes and the vegetable of the day, in this case green beans in a lovely tomato sauce. The fish tasted fresh, but was inadequately seasoned. Again, where’s the oregano?
Our other choice of entrée was stuffed shrimp. The jumbo shrimp were stuffed with a flavorful bread base, liberally laced with real crab. It is a very appealing dish.
Like the other offerings, desserts here run toward the traditionally Greek. With our Greek coffee, we indulged in two Greek pastries: baklava and galataboureko. The galataboureko was the more interesting of the two. It is made of phyllo dough filled with an orange-flavored custard and laced with sweet syrup.
Galini’s owner, Nick Christakos, comes from Mani, a mountainous region south of Sparta. It is a rugged place filled with history and legends since prehistoric times. This is the legend of Galini as told on the restaurant’s Web site
Galini was the daughter of a king in a naval city in ancient Greece. After a long-lasting storm at sea, the high priest of the city asked the king to sacrifice his daughter to the god Poseidon, hoping that the god in return would calm the sea which would help reestablish the sea trade which they so much depend upon. The king granted his request and sacrificed his daughter by dropping her in the deep water. Poseidon, charmed by her beauty, spared her life and took her to live with him. According to the legend, the sea in which Galini was sacrificed is always calm.
The Bottom Line
A large Greek seafood restaurant where fresh seafood and Greek specialties are served up to Greek and other music on the weekends. Visit their Web site at www.galinirestaurant.com to print a coupon for a free coffee and dessert with each entrée. You can call them at 718-SAY-FISH.
Cuisine: Greek Style Fish and Seafood; Meat options also
Setting: Ballroom feel with nautical kitsch
Hours: Tues. – Sun., L&D, closed Mon.
Reservations: Recommended on Weekends
Parking: Valet parking weekends in own lot
Children: Family atmosphere
Private Parties: Up to 200 in main dining room. Smaller private party room
Credit cards: Yes
Noise level: Acceptable
Handicap accessible: Yes
Zucchini & Eggplant…$9.95
Pikilia (Combination of three Greek dips)…$9.95
Whole Fish: Sea Bass, Red Snapper, Striped Bass, Porgie…Market Price
Galini at sea (lobster tail, salmon, scallops, shrimp, calamari)…$23.95
Stuffed filet of sole…$17.95