The lighting in the dining room is not quite bright and not quite dim. There's an empty refrigerator case near the front door. And what looks as though it was once a cafeteria line holds pizzas on metal stands. It's not the most welcoming spot for a meal, but on the advice of a reader, we are at Kosta's Greek Style Pizza in Pompano Beach.
Until owner Kostas Mantzouranis moved into this space 19 months ago, his Kosta's Greek Eatery had a 14-year run in two Lighthouse Point locations. Mantzouranis, I discover later, is the gruff guy you see running between a kitchen in the back and a pizza oven out front. Thank goodness for the easygoing wait staff.
We'd come for Greek food, but when the menus arrive, we see that while Kosta's might have once been a full-on Greek restaurant, these days it's just as much about pizza. Given the choice, we head Hellenic.
The first thing to arrive is a complimentary basket of warm pita triangles with herbs, garlic and grated cheese. They are good apparatus for scooping up the contents of the three-dip platter ($14.95) of tzatziki, hummus and eggplant salad. The yogurt-based tzatziki doesn't overdo the garlic. Nor does the not-so-creamy hummus. The texture of the eggplant salad or melitzanosalata lies somewhere between a dip and a spread.
Later, by phone, Mantzouranis tells me that 80 percent of his business is pizza. That could be why at least two of the dips — while still very much edible — tasted as though they'd been made a long time ago. While I understand that many Greek dishes are made well ahead of time, two other menu items had a definite found-in-the-back-of-the-fridge quality.
Spanakopita ($8.95), for instance, was a stiff square of phyllo, spinach and feta. The bottom was so brown and oily, I wondered if it had been reheated a few too many times. Likewise, moussaka ($15.95), the classic potato, eggplant and meat sauce casserole topped with béchamel cream. Instead of tasting layers of flavor, it was one gloppy mess. The best thing about the dish was the big pile of green beans, so good that we took them home for lunch the next day.
Greek Village salad ($10.95) is typically made without lettuce, a mixture of tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, onion, peppers and feta. What Kosta's serves is more like a Greek salad, but this one had way too much onion and absurdly under ripe tomatoes. Best thing about it was finding a stuffed grape leaf tucked inside. I order a gyro platter ($14.95) served with tzatziki and liked the flavor of the meat. I just wish it was sliced a little more thinly. Again, there's so much food here that you'll have lots leftover for lunch.
Good value is what draws people here. As a neighborhood Greek restaurant and pizzeria, Kosta's will do.
1940 NE 49th St., Pompano Bach
Hours: Lunch and dinner daily
Reservations: Not required
Credit cards: D, MC, V
Bar: Beer and wine
Sound level: Moderate
Outside smoking: No
For kids: High chairs
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Free lot