Did you grow up in a gregarious home where whatever came out of the kitchen was delicious and everyone was welcome? Well, if you didn’t, you’re lucky to have Papa Cristo’s C&K Importing nearby as a second home – a homestylye atmosphere with food that can’t be missed.
It opened in 1948 as an import store by Sam Chrys to bring authentic Greek products to Los Angeles. His son Chrys Chrys “Papa Cristo” expanded it to include a restaurant. He has kept up the tradition of low prices for high quality and friendly service. A refreshing departure from the norm of paying sky-high prices for imported foods in specialty stores (Do you hear me L’ Occitane?).
Nutritionists have been increasingly recommending a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, fish, vegetables. While this is news to the average American diet of processed substances and saturated fats that pass as food – the Greeks and their neighbors have known the health benefits of their diet for … well, since the years ending with B.C. If you want to prepare your own meals and forego the restaurant, you aren’t limited to the variety of imported goods that line the shelves....You can step up to the deli counter and buy freshly baked bread, Greek feta and yoghurt, varieties of bulk olives, skewers of kababs, dips, spreads, pastries. I could go on and on!
Upon our first meeting, Papa Cristo met me with a big hug and happily showed me the framed copy of his father’s manifest from his arrival on Ellis Island. Samos had signed his signature with such a flourish I couldn’t make out the original last name (which rolled off Papa Cristo’s tongue with ease), and apparently the attendant couldn’t either. He was assigned the name Sam Chrys, a name he was so proud of he had it legally changed. Thus he proudly named his son, the future “Papa Cristo” the name is an Americanized Chrys Chrys.
Chrys is passionate about feeding his friends, and he considers you his friend even before he’s met you.
All of his ingredients are bursting with freshness and flavor. He took me back into the kitchen to watch the process of handmade spanako pita with whole-wheat filo dough and I was mesmerized by the deft movements of the 2 ladies who were smiling and gossiping and creating them by the dozen. “We provide them for our customers, but also for Mrs. Gooches, Whole Foods Markets and other quality stores.” So if you want the real spanakopita fresh out of the kitchen at a reasonable price, you know where to get it.
The décor is a world away from the chi-chi LA eateries, which insist you dress up for dinner and can be downright intimidating. Here you’ll find communal tables draped with checkered table coverings, that makeyou feel comfortable putting your elbows on the table. The walls are covered with faded travel posters of the Greek isles, and the music is lively. Just the thing at the end of a long day when you just want to chill with some good food!
The food! Appetizers and salads are the size of meals and entrees are the size of feasts. Diners order at the counter and servers bring the food to your table. Be sure to order any extra sides as they charge for them – and after you taste their sauces, you’ll definitely want extra. Which brings me to a recent meal with friends: we shared a salad, saganaki, zesty shrimp and veggie entrée they whipped up for the vegetarian in our group and the ultra popular – gyros pizza! I’ve grown up loving those sandwiches, but this was gyros to the power of… GYROS! Drizzled with extra sauce, I was in heaven nibbling on the perfectly seasoned toppings and lightly crispy crust.
So I came back this week for Papa Cristo’s Big Fat Greek Family Style Dinner. It is every Thursday night at 6:30 and features wine tasting, appetizers,two entrees, salad,entrees, salad, green beans, roasted potatoes, fresh-baked bread, bakalava dessert, coffee and belly dancing entertainment for just $24 which includes tax and tip plus free parking!
At the end of the meal servers came by to give us To Go containers so that none of the delicious food was wasted.
Yay! Another midnight fridge raid courtesy of Papa Cristo’s!