Best Greek

Athens on Fourth Avenue

READERS' PICK: When you savor the fish that Athens on Fourth Avenue serves, you'll swear that Andreas Delfakis is from the ancient port of Piraeus, Porto Rafti, Patras, or an island, say, Egina or Tinos. Instead Delfakis is from land-locked Daras, a quirky, secessionist and frozen-in-time village in tranquil Arkadia, not far from the heart of the Peloponissos. No matter. He is skilled in selecting cabrilla, salmon and halibut, as well as shrimp and calamari. And he is a genius preparing them in his trademark simple method with olive oil, lemon, garlic and white wine. The seafood platter Santorini is a favorite: shrimp and the fresh fish of the day sautéed in olive oil, herbs, tomatoes, garlic and wine. Mercouri herself would dance for Delfakis' makarunatha and mussels. The pasta has a simple sauce that seems made for the mussels and mizithra cheese. The calamari, long the best in Tucson for its size, ultra-light flour and Delfakis' superb olive oil, is available as a dinner or, upon request, as an appetizer. In fact, you may want to make a meal of various appetizers including saganaki, roasted red peppers and a shrimp saganaki that has both feta and kefalotiri cheeses. Delfakis has other specialties in his beautiful bistro. Come early if you want braised lamb. It is typically sold out at the late hours. Delfakis buys only lamb raised at the Greek-owned, Basque-worked ranches of Western Colorado. The finest. No self-respecting Greek-American would use New Zealand lamb. Service is always good, but as for hours of operation, Never on Sunday. But Greeks make exceptions on special days, particularly to honor mom. Call ahead.

B-SIDE: El Greco's Grecian Garden, 4635 E. Fort Lowell Road. For 20 years near the University of Arizona, Ptolemeos, from the northern Greek town of Ptolemaida, and Lois Kotzambasis were famous for their mystical bread and huge spanakopita. Squeezed out by UA expansion, they now, together with son Elias and daughter Chrys, serve their delights in a spacious, nicely decorated and comfortable spot just west of Swan Road. Spanakopita, moussaka and chicken are supreme hits. The best gyro is not a gyro at all, but a donar kebab that is--we'll never tire of eating it--easily the best in town. The Kotzambasis hummus also is the best in Tucson. You can find things only here, like Chicken Mavrodaphne, prepared with the dark, sweet wine of that name. There's superb baklava and rice pudding, too.

B-SIDE: John Condiss may not be an import like Delfakis and Kotzambasis, but for decades he's run the Olive Tree, a fine Greek restaurant in an upscale setting at 7000 E. Tanque Verde Road. Condiss and Delfakis were together, with others, at the immensely popular Gyro Taverna in La Placita in another era. The Condiss hit is the grilled lamb chops, possibly the best in the West.

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