Telluride Inside...and Out In Greece: Mamacas And More

DSC02439 Our experience is that  upon venturing outside the bubble we call Telluride, it takes awhile to find our sea legs. Or in this case, our way around the kitchen.

Greece has it when it comes to food: the Pelopponese is a kind of Eden, growing all kinds of fruits and vegetables, producing amazing wines , cheeses, meats and olive oils too. Crete, where we are headed today,  is another food mecca. So it is no big surprise that Athens is a food town, with a wide range of choices of eateries from down and dirty tavernas to Michelin-starred restaurants. (There's one right next store to our hotel, Eridanus, but we failed to score a reservation.)

But we saved the best for last. The place is called Mamacas. Mamacas is an abbreviated form of the original owner/operator's name, something like Mama Costas. According to our driver from yesterday's trip (he recommended the place), the word is also slang for "Mama's boy," and refers to guys who love mama too much to marry.

Mamacas is located in Gazi, an area which used to house a huge natural gas storage plant that is no longer in use. Over the past decade, Gazi evolved into the place to be on the weekends, chockablock with clubs and restaurants, where the smart young set gather en masse (and older wannabes). On Saturday night, Gazi is Times Square on New Year's Eve, the music blasting, people dancing on tables, breaking glasses. In other words, it's a scene. The place to be.

But then Saturday night is for amateurs. We worldly folks opted to check out Mamacas on Sunday. So around 10:30 p.m. on a rainy night (remember, Greece is a Mediterranean country) we took the 7 minute walk from Eridanus to Gazi, trusting we would get a table without a reservation.

Less is more at Mamacas. The setting is an all-white space with minimal but comfortable seating. The restaurant has built its fine reputation on the use of the freshest, highest quality ingredients and then getting out of the way. Preparations are unapologetically simple and straightforward.

Our dinner began with peppers stuffed with a creamy cheese, the subtle sweet and spicy flavors literally melting in our mouths. For a main course, we chose Kontosouvli, pig that appeared to have been marinated in the lightest of Dijonnaise sauces, then roasted on a spit and served with a side of French fries. Dessert was plate of fresh fruit. We chose a bottle of the house wine to wash it all down.  In Greece, we have come to discover that wines in general are so good, the house choice in a good restaurant is  better than fine and far less spendy than high profile brand names.)

The service was friendly, but not cloying. Just right too. Turns out our handsome waiter, Christos Anustusopaulos, is about to graduate university as a civil engineer, before heading out into the world to make his mark. Once the place had emptied out, he joined us to chat about his country, the current and global affairs.

Christos described the staff at Mamacas as a family. He told us that when the place is packed on weekends, he and his colleagues  often communicate through body language because no one could hear a request above the din. But they can do that because they have all been there for years and work as a team. A team of winners in a place that can't be beat for quality and value.

All that for 45 euros, including tip.

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