First Look: Zorba's Taverna in Delray Beach Serves Authentic Greek Fare

For an authentic taste of Greece, Palm Beach residents look no further than Zorba's Taverna, a new eatery now open in Delray Beach.

With decades' worth of combined experience, owners Bobby and father Taso Orfanos joined with restaurateur Bill Maxakoulis to open Zorba's last December. The trio is dedicated to serving "soul-satisfying" Greek dishes from expansive lunch and dinner menus filled with a variety of house-made favorites that focus on fresh ingredients, with many items imported from Greece.

"Our recipes have been handed down from many generations in both of our families," said Maxakoulis. "We serve the best Greek food on this side of the Atlantic."

To make the experience especially welcoming, patrons can rejoice with Zorba's daily complimentary bowl of house-made hummus, served along with triangles of warm pita bread any time of day. The freebies continue during dinner, when every diner (21 years of age and over, of course) receives a glass of Greek wine -- on the house -- with the purchase of an entrée.

Inside, Zorba's décor has been done in the standard white and blue Greek colors, livened with vibrant, hand-painted murals by local artist Henry J. Nite and lively Greek music -- except on Friday and Saturday nights, when diners are entertained by a musician playing the bouzouki and singing popular Greek songs, starting at 6 p.m. Inside seating is mirrored on the outdoor patio, where additional seating allows for quiet, casual dining.

To helm the kitchen, chef Bobby Orfanos -- the opening executive chef for Taverna Opa in West Palm Beach -- grew up cooking in his father's restaurants in Manhattan and previously owned several pizzerias in New York City before moving to South Florida. Maxakoulis previously owned several diners on Long Island, New York, as well as several delicatessens in New York City.

Standout starters include an array of house-made dips, including taramasalata (caviar), tzatziki (traditional dill-spiked yogurt), and melitzanosalata (eggplant). The restaurant also hand-rolls fresh-made dolmades daily (stuffed grape leaves) with the choice of vegetarian and meat varieties. A char-grilled octopus from Greece and a saganaki doused in cognac tops the owners' list of favorites.

Dinner entrees include Greek specialties, such as pastitsio -- or Greek lasagna -- layers of Greek pasta and baked seasoned ground beef, topped with a Bechamel sauce. Lavraki (Mediterranean sea bass, which is flown in from Greece every other day) is served with dandelion greens and lemon potatoes. For lamb, try the generous shank cut which is braised and then cooked in a tomato sauce and served with orzo.

Craving seafood? The shrimp Zorba features jumbo U-15 shrimp sauteed with chopped tomatoes, feta cheese, spinach and herbs. Zorba's also offers a variety of shish kebabs -- chicken, beef, lamb, and shrimp -- each served with peppers and onions over a bed of rice pilaf, and marinated in a simple blend of olive oil, lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Dessert can come on a plate, or in a glass. Zorba's home-made desserts include a pistachio or cheesecake (versus traditional walnut) baklava, and the tavern serves eight Greek wines by the glass or bottle, along with several beers, including Mythos.

Zorba's Taverna is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The restaurant is located in the Delray Town Center shopping plaza. For more information call 561-381-7411, or visit eatzorbas.com.

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