Feb. 22, 2021 By Christina Santucci
The owners of a popular Greek-Cypriot restaurant in Astoria are launching a virtual cooking series – starting with two sessions this week.
Elena Ioannidis, co-owner of Zenon Taverna, is holding the classes and said her goal is to teach people how to cook some of the Greek and Cypriot dishes that the restaurant is best known for.
This week’s online events are scheduled to take place Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 28 at 4 p.m. The classes will be held on an ongoing basis.
Attendees will learn how to make Pastitsio, a baked pasta dish with béchamel sauce and chopped pork (often referred to as Greek lasagna), and Melitzanosalata, a roasted eggplant and feta dip similar to baba ganoush.
“Depending on where you are from in Greece and Cyprus, everyone’s [Pastitsio] recipe will be slightly different,” Ioannidis said.
Zenon’s version belongs to Ioannidis’ mother, Dora Papageorgiou, who will be teaching Sunday’s class with Ioannidis from their home.
The restaurant also plans to hold a virtual Cypriot wine and food pairing event on Mar. 26 and a cooking class on Apr. 18 for Koupepia, or stuffed grape leaves, and Tzatziki, a yogurt dip with cucumber and mint.
Zenon’s traditional grape leaves are stuffed with pork, but Ioannidis said the restaurant also plans to demonstrate how to make two other versions using chicken and vegan meat during the online class.
Ioannidis’ family has owned the Zenon Taverna since 1988, when her father, a trained chef from Cyprus, took over the business. The restaurant is currently open for takeout and delivery, as well as off-site catering, and the owners are still deciding whether they plan to open for indoor dining.
“We’re on the more cautious side,” Ioannidis said.
Tickets for this week’s Zoom classes and recipes cost $50, and ingredients for the dishes can be delivered locally or picked up at the restaurant, located at 34-10 31st Ave, for an additional $35.
This week’s classes will be capped at 15 attendees, so that the hosts can interact with everyone. More attendees will be able to partake in the March event, which will feature the restaurant’s Cypriot wine supplier.
Attendees are also encouraged to purchase a digital copy of Astoria at Home Cookbook, a collection of recipes from Astoria restaurants, for $25. It includes recipes from Zenon.
All proceeds from the cookbook are donated to the Astoria Mutual Aid Network, a neighborhood group that helps elderly and homebound residents with errands and collects food and items like heaters for those in need.