TAUNTON — Fall River residents George Tambasidis and Olta Joxhe are the owners of the new Grilla Greek Kouzina in Taunton, but they won’t take full credit for the Greek specialties featured on the menu.
Sure, they renovated the former Dunkin Donuts building on the corner of Broadway and Monroe Street, and they do the cooking and run the restaurant, but Tambasidis’ grandmother, Stavroula Vanttouris, gets almost all of the credit for the recipes.
Grilla Greek Kouzina opened June 5, and it was an encouraging first day, with a line out the door and across the parking lot. Business has been steady since.
“It’s been very busy. Thank God. My grandma’s recipes worked out,” said Tambasidis, who estimates, “95 percent of it, definitely, my grandma’s recipes.”
“And the rest is from our travels,” Joxhe said, “mainly from Greece.
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”You know, going to different cities, different towns, different islands, just kind of trying different restaurants out and seeing what we liked. And you know, we asked people what they use for herbs, ingredients and stuff like that. So we kind of brought it all back after years and years of doing that.”
“There are some old recipes, but a lot of new flavors, too,” Tambasidis added.
Greek cooking comes to town
Tambasidis is Greek, but was born and raised in Boston, and grew up around and worked in his family’s pizza restaurant. Joxhe is Albanian, born in Albania but raised in Boston.
In their late 20s, the pair has traveled extensively in Greece, sampling and talking with locals about the food along the way. They didn’t see or hear about much Greek food in the local area, so they decided to give it a shot.
“We just saw an opportunity and we kind of just wanted to bring something new in town, since there’s not much around like what we do,” Joxhe said. “We just wanted to do something different, saw the opportunity and said why not?”
The grand opening crowd confirmed it was a solid bet.
“We had a line all the way to the open sign for our grand opening, so that was a good day,” Tambasidis said, pointing to the sign at the far corner of the property, “Super busy, man, super busy… like the whole parking lot full, a line all the way to the open sign.”
“With Sunday being Sunday, we kind of took a risk,” Joxhe said. “We didn’t know how people would respond, but it was great.”
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What’s on the menu
Most of the cooking and prep work is done behind the scenes in the kitchen, and orders are assembled at the front counter, which is decorated in bright white and blue, the colors of Greece.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are on the menu.
Rice and pasta bowls topped with a protein, fresh vegetables and house-made sauces, including tzaziki and the secret-recipe Grilla sauce are popular; Joxhe says they just can’t keep up with the demand for Grilla’s grilled chicken. The menu also includes Greek specialties like lamb chops, skepasti and spanakopita, with baklava and more house-made Greek pastries for dessert.
And of course, Grilla has gyros in six varieties.
One example, as Tambasidis describes it: “We make a traditional Greek gyro, it’s called a Kota gyro, and we throw the tzatziki sauce inside and then tomatoes and fresh onions, put the nice chicken up top, then we put the French fries on top of the chicken, then we wrap it in the fluffy pita bread.
“And then we throw our special house sauce on everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything.”
Grilla also offers “pitzas,” think pizza on a pita bread, and the breakfast menu has a number of breakfast sandwiches served on pita and a breakfast bowl served on a base of French fries.
Grilla imports items and ingredients straight from Greece, like seasonings, desserts, drinks and even a small inventory of grocery items.
“We try to make it as authentic as possible, as you can see like from the salts that we use, from the balsamic vinaigrette, everything,” Joxhe said. “It’s the small, little touches that matter.”
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Tambasidis and Joxhe are grateful for the warm and busy reception and hope Grilla has the potential to thrive in Taunton and grow to develop another location or two or three in the region.
“You know, we want to keep growing,” Tambasidis said. “We love Taunton, and so far, Taunton loves us, too, you know, because they come in and support it. So we’re gonna try to, you know, to keep this one here and then try to expand in the future.
“People are loving it. It’s not only that it’s Greek food, it’s the way we do it. We get it ready right here in front of you, it’s fresh, and that’s what it’s about.”
Taunton Daily Gazette staff writer Jon Haglof can be reached at email@example.com. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Taunton Daily Gazette today.