Elia Taverna

Rui Cunha, former owner of Oporto in Hartsdale has re-emerged in Chester Heights, at the crossroads of Bronxville and Eastchester off California Road. He has migrated south and his cuisine has traveled eastward – from Portugal to Greece at his new hotspot Elia Taverna. He’s teamed up with brother-in-law and chef Michalki Sarris, who hails from Telly’s Taverna and Dimitri’s Seafood Restaurant in Astoria and clearly knows how to run a Greek kitchen.

The restaurant opened two months ago and has been an instant hit. As they don’t take reservations on Friday and Saturday nights, hungry diners have been lining up in the parking lot in the hope of getting a table on the weekend. The good news is that Elia Taverna does accept reservations on weeknights and they are open for lunch. So if you’re determined to get in, you just need to plan ahead.

The restaurant is small but inviting, adorned with posters of the Greek Isles that elicit pleasant memories of trips to Mykonos, Santorini or Paros. You’ll get a warm welcome from the waiter and instantly be served toasted pita and Greek olives. Until they get their liquor license, you are allowed to bring your own bottle – so remember to grab your favorite red or white before you go.

The menu starts with a long list of cold and hot appetizers. We tasted the taramosalata – a creamy caviar dip and skordalia made with garlic and potatos. A sampling plate of skordalia, tzatziki, taramosalata, and melitzanosalata (roasted eggplant dip) is available for $10.95.

From the zesta or hot list, there’s fried calamari, charcoal grilled octopus, kolokithokeftedes (fried zucchini cakes with fresh herbs) and homemade stuffed grape leaves with rice, fresh dill, lemon and Greek olive oil. We tasted a few more– including the garides saganaki – which were sautéed shrimp in a tomato sauce with fresh feta cheese. The shrimp were delicious and the spicy sauce was perfect with pita and rice.

The menu includes gyro and souvlaki, both available as pita sandwiches or on platters with Greek salad, tzatziki and rice. Choose from falafel, gyro, pork or chicken souvlaki or a Greek burger, all reasonably priced at $6.95 for the sandwich or $12.95 for the platter.

For entrées there are traditional Greek specialties like pastichio, moussaka, and spanikopita. From the grill, there’s lamb or chicken kebab, lamb chops, and a mixed grill platter of gyro, sausage, beef and chicken. The chef features fresh grilled fish, including branzino, red snapper, salmon and swordfish and Rui recommended that we come back soon to sample the Octopus, which was too much to eat for lunch.

Elia Taverna welcomes children and has a kids’ menu with hamburgers, chicken tenders and cheese sticks, for those with a less adventurous palate.

If you remember the delicious sangria served at Oporto, you’ll be happy to know that Rui is working on bottling his secret recipe and selling it in stores. For now, we hope that Elia Taverna will get their liquor license so we can enjoy a glass of the fruity blend there.

Our lunch was delicious and fun. I could swear I saw my companion blush a few times as the charming Greek waiter served up compliments along with our food. "We're definitely coming back here for a girl's night out," she declared as we walked out the door.

Choose a quiet weekday for lunch or dinner and find your way down the Hutch to Elia Taverna. If you can’t get a table, take out is available as well.

Elia Taverna
502 New Rochelle Road
Bronxville, NY 10708
914-ONE-GYRO – 914-663-4977