Go Greek at Romio's

Special to the Idaho StatesmanMay 12, 2006 

— It's no wonder why Greeks live to be so old, with all the olive oil, garlic, fresh lemons and oregano they eat on a daily basis.

Let's not forget retsina, a delightfully crisp white wine with an essence of pine tree sap.

That's good for the ticker, too.

You'll find all these items plus more at Romio's Pizza and Pasta, the closest thing Boise has to a "real" Greek restaurant.

Romio is the Greek spelling of Romeo (no, I haven't had too much retsina).

The restaurant opened in February on Milwaukee Street, after owner Gus Georgilakis gave Schlotzsky's Deli a Mediterranean makeover.

Georgilakis added dark velvet drapes and attractive wood tables to the otherwise lackluster fast food space near Boise Towne Square mall.

Romio's is a Seattle-based franchiser that specializes in Greek-style pizza and other western Mediterranean offerings. Most people who own Romio's franchises are of Greek descent, and many supplement the formulized menu with Greek specialties.

The perfectly chewy pizza dough is made fresh every morning by Georgilakis' father, Annivas, the former owner of Zorba's —a short-lived Greek restaurant that existed on Fairview Avenue in Boise during the early '90s.

One recent night, we started with glasses of Boutari Retsina ($6) and the hot and cold mezethes ($10.95), a variety of small Greek appetizers.

A large platter came packed with bite-size spanokopita (little cheese pies made with flaky phyllo dough), fragrant beef meatballs, grilled pita bread, tomato and cucumber slices, kalamata olives, golden pepperoncini and softened grape leaves stuffed with seasoned rice and beef (dolmades).

The dry retsina was an ideal match for an order of kalamarakia ($7.95), which were tender ringlets and tentacles of flash-fried squid (lightly breaded) served with ramekins of garlicky yogurt (tzatziki) and basil-tinged marinara sauce.

We then made room for a small Gorgonzola pizza ($11.95) and a horiatiki Greek salad ($7.95), a refreshing mix of tomato, cucumber, red onion, green bell pepper, crumbled feta and briny kalamatas splashed with red wine vinaigrette.

All pizzas have a medium-thick crust that's somewhere between New York-thin and deep-dish Chicago.

The Gorgonzola pie was exceptional, with its melted mozzarella, gooey blue cheese, red bell pepper, baby spinach leaves, toasted walnuts and hints of garlic.

Pastichio ($9.95) is a sure bet at Romio's. This delicious Greek-style lasagna— layers of skinny pasta tubes and seasoned ground beef—came topped with bubbling, creamy béchamel and bright tomato sauce.

We finished our meal with a thick wedge of baklava ($3.95), a sweet phyllo dessert with a stratum of honey-drenched walnuts drizzled with sticky cinnamon sauce.

A few weeks later, we swung by and picked up some to-go pies for a pizza party.

Both large pizzas ($19.95 each) traveled well in their sturdy boxes.

The G.A.S.P., an acronym for garlic, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto, was a tasty pie topped with just those ingredients, and lots of gooey mozzarella cheese.

We weren't as impressed by the Acropolis, which was a heavily topped pizza (named after an ancient fortified section of Athens) with a base of garlicky tomato sauce and no shortage of spicy sausage, pepperoni, green bell pepper, mushrooms and tomato (sliced too thick) striped with anchovy fillets.

Breath mints definitely were needed after consuming this pungent pie.

Romio's also offers standard Italian-influenced pizzas and familiar pasta dishes (think pasta carbonara), yet these Greeks do Greek food best.

If you heed this advice, Romio's should have you exclaiming, "Opa!"

But please don't break any plates.

James Patrick Kelly is the Idaho Statesman's restaurant critic. E-mail him at jpkfood@yahoo.com.

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