Dinner Dance: Taverna Tony has more than just food. Merv Hecht

This restaurant has been around for a long time and it is unique. There are so few Greek restaurants in Los Angeles, which is hard to understand since the food is wonderful. Years ago we used to sail all the way to San Pedro…to go to a delightful Greek restaurant with authentic ambiance and great food. When it closed we rarely went out for Greek food because Taverna Tony was the only place close by and Malibu was out of our normal range for restaurants (no place to dock a boat).

But this week we went back. I had noticed incredibly good reviews on the internet, so I figured it was time to try it again. And it was better than ever.

It’s not only a good restaurant, it’s an experience. Of course it’s loud, unless you sit on the outside patio. Usually, we hate loud restaurants, but Tony’s is so much fun, and the noise is part of the ambiance so that didn’t bother us. We were too busy enjoying the food, looking at the plates on the adjacent tables, talking to some of the 20 people at a nearby table who were celebrating the birthday of a very attractive blonde in a see-through dress, and watching the dancing girl with amazing belly muscles.

I suppose all my readers know something about Greek food. But there are a lot of dishes one finds in Greece that are hard to find in Los Angeles. My two favorite Greek dishes are moussaka and baklava. You can find these in most Greek restaurants. But I only like the moussaka if made with ground lamb, not beef. Unfortunately, at Tony’s they use beef. Their baklava is also not as flaky as some, but it’s a large enough piece for two or three people so that’s some compensation.

Seafood is obviously a major part of Greek food, especially octopus. And the octopus at Tony’s is very authentic and very good. Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) are stuffed with different things in different restaurants, but these were stuffed with ground beef and more flavorful than most. Dishes with feta cheese are very Greek and show up here on the menu in various dishes.

Good appetizers, especially dips, are very Greek. Tzatziki, a cucumber yogurt dip, and Taramosalata, a carp roe spread, are traditional. Tony’s has all of them on this menu, but the house dip, served as soon as you are seated, with thick hot bread, was one of the best dips we’ve ever had.

We ordered some drinks, and the waiter brought the delicious warm bread and the famous house dip. The dip was so good we were in no rush to order. After a half hour or so we ordered the peasant long-cooked lamb and the whole Branzino. Both were fine, and each dish was enough for two people. I ate the whole fish and my companion took home half the lamb.

Then I ordered the baklava for dessert with a Greek (thick) coffee.

We watched the table next to us receive a flaming cheese dish which looked great, and the octopus, a very popular dish here. Of course all the popular Greek dishes, like grape leaves, spanakopita, and various dips were being served to the birthday table.

All in all it was a lot of fun, and we’re going back soon. When we go back we are going to order differently. We will just order grape leaves and the various Greek appetizers, maybe the flaming cheese and the octopus. That’s the best part of the menu.

Merv Hecht, like many Harvard Law School graduates, went into the wine business after law. In 1988, he began writing restaurant reviews and books. His latest book “The Instant Wine Connoisseur, 3rd Edition” is available on Amazon. He currently works for several companies that source and distribute food and wine products internationally. Please send your comments to: mervynhecht@yahoo.com