Avli Brings Taste of Greece to Winnetka

Long ago, the Greeks conquered Troy. This fall, they have conquered Winnetka — at the wonderful new Greek restaurant, Avli Estiatorio, located inside the Laundry Mall.

Weekend reservations are hard to come by, and justifiably so. The interior is warm and comforting, with plenty of exposed brick, warm tones and a toasty fireplace. And of course, the real imprimatur of quality is the many Greek patrons and their families who surround our table. For good measure, we brought our own ringer — a close friend who grew up in a Greek restaurant owned by her father.

The appetizer offerings are varied and tempting. While there are some classic Greek menu stalwarts like Saganaki (Flaming cheese — OPA!) and Avgolemeno (Greek Egg Lemon Soup), there are many dishes that are Greek family favorites or those you might only find in Athens or Corfu.

Try the grilled Locanico ($9), a pork sausage flavored with orange rind and herbs; the Prasopita ($6), a Northern Greek specialty of filo-wrapped leek, fennel and cheese; or the crispy, greaseless crispy Tignita Kalamarakia ($6/11), known stateside as fried calamari. We tore into the satisfying Avli Pita Flatbread ($7); a crisp square crust loaded with caramelized onions, olives, tomatoes and both feta and myzithra cheeses.

Entrees brought an embarrassment of riches: Arni me Gigandes ($17), a succulent braised lamb shank nestled atop giant white beans fragrant with herbs and tomatoes; Lamb Scaras ($14), perfectly marinated and char-grilled lamb and loin chops, which came with a side of Spanakorizo (rice cooked with spinach, dill and tomatoes); and the Pastitsada tis Kerkyras ($13), an amazing pasta dish featuring long, hollow noodle tubes tossed in a ragu of tomatoes, chicken and red wine, perfumed with cinnamon.

Desserts were decidedly untraditional, according to my expert, but very successful. We feasted upon the Chocolate Baklava ala Mode ($6); a fluffy and tart Yogurt Mousse ($5), topped with figs poached in Greek honey; and Diane’s Greek Bread Pudding ($6), a real winner, studded with figs, raisins and orange peel preserves. The coffee was served strong and hot.

The prices at Avli were incredibly reasonable, especially when considering the portion size and quality of the food. Be forewarned that the wine list is all-Greek, although there are many bargains to be found. We brought a bottle of Spanish malbec and paid a $15 corkage fee, well worth it.

We’ll be back, and many times. I hope that next time the food won’t come out quite so quickly, so that I can fully savor the general deliciousness that is Avli Estiatorio.

Avli Estiatorio
566 Chestnut St.