By Joe Gorman
Every year, Lou Lyras comes back to the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church Greek Festival and samples the food.
This year, Lyras, who is Greek, brought his fiancee, Kathy Rody (who said she is Irish and Slovak) to the festival, and for the first time, she ate Greek food. Rody says she will be back for more.
“You don’t have to be Greek to be connected,” she said. “The food is just good.”
The festival, which began at the church Thursday, is part of the Summer Festival of the Arts sponsored by Youngstown State University.
Jamie Coutris, who at one time ran a Greek restaurant and now helps to run the Capitol Grill in the 20 Federal Place building, was working with a crew of helpers in the kitchen. She said the church’s Tuesday Club starts buying and preparing food for the festival in March, making some and freezing it.
Coutris said the workers have been working every day the last few days to get ready for the event.
Some of the more popular dishes, Coutris said, include the lamb dinner, mousaka (a kind of eggplant dish), pastisto (Greek-style lasagna and spinach pie) and stuffed grape leaves.
Though the fare is traditional Greek, Coutris said it is not something eaten every day.
“This is party food,” she said. “This is not something you want to eat on a day-to-day basis. It’s rich.”
The pastisto, especially, is very popular.
“It was delicious,” said Joan Balas of Boardman. She came to the festival with a friend, and they also went to the events on the YSU campus.
Ernie Perrin of Boardman had come to the festival Thursday to sample the food, but the kitchen was closed when he was there. He came back Saturday with his wife and son. He also had the pastisto and some lamb sliders, as well as some pastries.
“Excellent,” he said of the food. “Really, really, good. The pastry was, like, knockout.”
He said he decided to go to the festival because he wanted to support a local event and he was always curious about it because he had seen it advertised.
“We thought we’d give it a shot,” Perrin said.
Lyras said he was baptized at the church as an infant and has been coming to the festival for years. Even though it has recently been linked with YSU, not much about the festival has changed, he said.
Coutris said she is very thankful that YSU has included the St. Nicholas festival with their own event.
“We love being part of this,” she said. “We love being part of the downtown experience.”