Pylos (A Greek Odyssey in the East Village)

So you live in the East Village and you’re a punk rocker with a mohawk and a nose ring or let’s say you’re not, you’re Natalie Portman–not that she lives in the East Village, but let’s say she does–and you’ve never been to Greece but you suddenly find yourself craving a white sandy island surrounded by crystal blue water with olive trees and Greek gods throwing lightning at you. Where will you go? Look no further:

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Welcome to Pylos: home of one of the most transportive restaurant experiences I’ve had in recent memory. I was in the East Village during the week last week, a bit hungry, and walking past Pylos I thought, “Why not?” and in I went. I wasn’t expecting to be tele-ported completely across the Atlantic, yet that’s precisely what happened.

The first thing you’ll notice when you sit down at Pylos is that there are ceramic pots hanging over your head:

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This has been widely reported–most reviews of Pylos mention the pots–and when I read about those pots, before I went, I didn’t know what to think. Now that I’ve been there, I still don’t know what to think. It certainly adds drama to the room. And it also adds a nice color: with the white walls and the natural light coming in, you do feel like you’re in some kind of Greek bungalow next door to Lauren Bacall. You are Natalie Portman, after all.

Part of the transportive experience is owed to the decor, the other part is owed to the atmosphere: there’s fun Greek music playing and the waiter is Greek. He tried to get me to order wine with his heavy Greek accent, but I kindly said no. I wanted the Greek salad with grilled calamari.

I’ve never had a Greek salad with calamari. But it was one of the cheaper options on the menu and it sounded intriguing. When the waiter brought it out–about 15 minutes later–I was totally glad I ordered what I did:

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The smell was pure ocean, pure Mediterranean. Balanced with everything else in the bowl, it was like booking a trip on Orbitz without the expense. The calamari was grilled a perfect amount (following Mario Batali’s rule that calamari should be cooked for two minutes or a full hour, but nowhere in between). The stuffed grape leaves were the best I’ve ever had: fresh mint made them refreshing and pleasant, as opposed to the mealy, gnarly specimens you get at cheap diners.

I didn’t plan to go to Greece the day I had lunch at Pylos, but go to Greece I did. And if you live in the East Village, or even if you don’t, even if you live in Citrus County Florida (hi Bill! (see the comments)), you’ll find yourself transported when you get yourself to the East Village for lunch at Pylos. Natalie Portman would agree.

9 comments

  1. Hi, Adam. I am from and live in Barcelona, so it probably would be a lot easier (and make a lot more sense) to travel to Greece than to New York to enjoy Greek food. But since you can’t seem to stop rambling about all those great restaurants in the Big Apple, I’ll probably traveling there on my summer holidays, just to check the truth of your words.

  2. HAHA! You crack me up. It’s a shame that Bill removed your blog from his yahoo page; he’ll never know you gave Citrus County Florida a shout-out. Poor Bill.

  3. * Transportive? C’mon.

    * I’m Natalie Portman?! Excuse me, I have to go do awful things to myself for the next 50 years.

    * Citrus County? You wanna borrow my SunPass?

  4. Pylos is one of my very favorite restaurants. I’m just sorry you missed the greek salad and taramasalata, babaganoush, etc. plate. It’s a strong recommendation for next time.

  5. This looks so good. I tried to get into Pylos on short notice a few weeks ago, but they had no rezzies. We went to Barbounia instead, which provides a very good fix if you’re in the mood for Greek/Mediterranean cuisine. But I really do want to get to Pylos.

  6. I was just in New York last week and took your recommendation about Pylos. Delicious. I got a seat at the bar and just had some small plates and a glass of wine. I have to recommend the octopus in balsamic reduction and the grilled haloumi cheese. If you go back you just have to try them.

    I found the sausage in tomato sauce a bit lackluster, but they may have had more to do with the fact I had Biricchino the day before.

    Anyways, thanks for the rec.

  7. Pylos’ regular Greek Salad is also delicious! I’m an E. Villager w/ a nose ring at heart, if not in my nose, and I’ve been going there for years. The salad is incredibly fresh with tangy feta and huge tomatoes. There’s a couple of new Greek spots on the Upper West Side that I’m considering venturing uptown for soon…

  8. 3 Stars?! Really?!! It’s one of the best Greek restaurants around! It’s really a 5 star place.

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