BY SAMANTHA WANDERER
Zenon Taverna has long been a staple for local residents, offering authentic Greek and Cypriot cuisine in the Astoria community for the past 31 years.
Trained chef Stelios Papageorgiou left Cyprus and worked three jobs until he could open his own restaurant in 1988 — the same 31st Avenue location where Zenon Taverna still stands today. His son-in-law, Harry Ioannidis, now owns and operates the full-service restaurant.
“The neighborhood has changed with new families coming in, but all the old Greeks still come back to get their food,” Ioannidis said.
Part of what sets the restaurant apart from the other neighborhood Greek spots is its incorporation of Cypriot food and culture into the menu and dining experience. Chefs use unique spices for dishes and a special preparation process of their loukaniko (sausage).
“Our sausage is Cypriot style, which is soaked in red wine for about seven to 10 days before it’s made so it has a very different flavor than some of the Greek ones you’ll find out there,” Ioannidis said.
Nearly all dishes, from butchered meats to dips, are made in house and made to order. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are also available, and they are designated on the menu with symbols.
Ioannidis explained that Zenon Taverna recognizes the Cypriot and Greek belief that meals should be a social experience.
“Food’s supposed to be about being social so you get together with family, you sit down, you have a meal, you enjoy it, but it’s also about being in that moment with them as well,” Ioannidis said.
Meze, Cypriot-style tasting menus, are another specialty at Zenon Taverna. Customers can choose to sample from meat, fish or vegetarian options to get a broad feel for the menu.
Multiple daily specials are available, and most days include vegetarian and gluten-free options.
Starting Nov. 12, the restaurant will add a new special every Tuesday from 3 to 6 p.m. where kids eat for $1 with purchase of an adult meal.
Zenon Taverna also partnered with Allergic to Salad, a group that offers Master Chef classes to children in partnership with local restaurants, on Nov. 5.
“We’re going to teach a class and make a Cypriot specialty, and then for a week we’re going to sell that specialty in house,” Ioannidis said before the event. “All the proceeds will go to the school.”
For customers who want to bring Zenon Taverna home with them, delivery, to go, and catering options are all available.
“Our delivery area just increased to encompass a larger area of Astoria,” Ioannidis said.
Catering from Zenon Taverna is also popular throughout the tri-state area.
“In Philadelphia, they had a singer from Cyprus [perform], and an organization … [they] wanted authentic Cypriot food so they contacted us,” Ioannidis said. “We went out there and brought our food.”
Larger parties also have the option to hold their events in a second-floor banquet room that can accommodate up to 75 people for birthdays, weddings and other events, complete with bathrooms and bar service. For parties of less than 25, there is a minimum spending amount required.