Reliable, good Greek fare in Tribeca

By Lauren Fouda

Whenever a trendy new bistro opens up, or a chain spreads its wings and expands into occupied territory, I imagine the neighborhood’s longstanding restaurants must brace themselves for the competition that comes along with gentrification. After all, it’s one thing to establish a successful eatery in Manhattan, but quite another to sustain its popularity when copycats or new cuisines burst onto the scene.

On West Broadway, however, Delphi has held its own for many years, defiantly refusing to be intimidated by the influx of new options for hungry Tribecans. Even though scores of restaurateurs have followed Delphi’s lead and opened up shop below Canal Street, the proprietors of Delphi aren’t getting nervous. They’re fiercely proud of their homemade, authentic Greek cuisine, and they know nobody’s going to take their place.

The next time your urge for, say, spanikopita begins to take over your brain, rush over to Delphi, pass through the bright diner lights and television screen near the entrance, and situate yourself comfortably at a table next to the huge picture windows. In this intimate setting, surrounded by snaking white lights that provide an atmosphere of a grape arbor rather than a Christmas tree, you and your dinner guests will feel cozy and insulated as you watch pedestrians hurry past.

Accentuating your rosy glow of contentment will be the friendly hosts and congenial servers, who are eager to educate and brimming with excitement about all they have to offer. After our waiter Demitrius raved about their new organic Greek wine, a dry and full-bodied red, we ordered a bottle and decided we couldn’t have thought of a better choice to match our meal. While sampling a mezze platter of stuffed grape leaves, vegetables, and assorted dips, the hostess came over to answer questions—“roasted eggplant, fresh peppers, garlic, herbs, and some secret ingredients…” she teases, when we ask what’s in the superb chunky eggplant spread—and extol the virtues of the chef’s utterly fresh house-made delicacies, all of which are divine on warm, toasty pita bread.

In addition to the eggplant, a smooth hummus puree is laced with potently strong sesame tahini. Taramasalata, the caviar spread, is knife-sharp in flavor. But most surprising is the tzatziki: they even make their own yogurt, rather than buying a store brand to spike with cucumbers and dill. Does anyone else actually go to the trouble to make yogurt? Delphi’s version is pungent and screamingly flavorful. The spinach and cheese pie, loaded with hearty chunks of feta in an herbed spinach filling and encased in buttery phyllo dough, is equally gratifying.

Although we’d basically already consumed a full meal, we still couldn’t wait for our main courses. The moussaka, one of Greece’s national dishes, was an intriguing combination of eggplant, ground meat, tomato sauce, and a creamy topping. But we were even more excited for our Mediterranean-style baked Chilean sea bass, which we’d chosen from a list of the fish market’s freshest daily offerings. Our meltingly tender sea bass arrived at the table bathed in tomatoes, onions, and fresh herbs, which imbued their juices into the soft, succulent flesh.

We couldn’t resist the baklava, which is, of course, made in-house. The rich, flaky, honey-drenched pastry yielded to a crunchy walnut and pistachio filling, whose overwhelming sugar content was paired with cinnamon-topped ice cream. While this is worth it on its own for a dessert fix, it marries perfectly with Greek coffee, which is darker and more dangerous than espresso but not nearly as lethal as the Turkish variety. Sweetened and rich, with particularly thick and potent dregs, the coffee was a fitting pick-me-up after we nearly oozed into puddles of contentment.

While downtown residents in search of Greek food might be daunted at the prospect of a long odyssey, assuming they’ll need to trek to Astoria for authenticity, there’s really no need to leave their own backyard. It’s no surprise that this visionary gem has been flourishing in Tribeca since long before anyone else considered opening a restaurant in this neighborhood: the original Delphi’s most famous resident, after all, was the oracle.