It’s all Greek to me (and a little Italian, too)

The nondescript exterior. But oh, the yummies inside!

On the way back from an IKEA shopping trip, my driving pal impulsively decided she wanted to stop at the Spiros Pasadena Produce and Deli to pick up a Greek salad for her supper. We’d both separately driven by this little store, in an even-smaller strip shopping center in South Pasadena, but had never bothered to actually stop in. Now, on a later Saturday afternoon after a frenzied day of shopping, we were both glad we did.

It’s funny, too. We had had lunch together, earlier in the day, fantasizing about where in the world we would go if we had the money. She said Greece; I said Italy. We both agreed that both places would be a blast if for nothing other than the cuisine! And I’ve always loved Italian markets. Growing up North, I remember my mom stopping at a large Italian speciality deli in a (wait for it….) strip shopping center in Cleveland. I distinctly remember the smell of olives and freshly cured meats; we would usually walk out with bread and real Italian tomato paste that came in a squeeze tube – far superior to anything in a can on an American shelf.

Obligatory Greek statue.

But back to Spiros. It does double duty as a little casual cafe and provisions shop. While my friend studied the menu and eventually ordered a salad, I wandered the shop looking for goodies – and possibly, my dinner for the evening as well. On the cafe side, Spiros offers cold sandwiches (mortadella, chicken salad, classic hoagies, capicola, etc); hot sandwiches (gyros, eggplant parm, grouper sub, pork souvlaki, meatball sub); and salads such as the classic Greek, Chef Salad, and Spiro Special, with romaine, tomato, feta, tabbouleh, and tzatziki sauce. (Hungry yet?)

You can also get Greek and Italian dinner classics – moussaka, lasagna, roasted lamb.

Feta, feta, feta. FETA!

What stunned me were Spiros’ produce prices. I couldn’t believe that this tiny shop had better-than-competitive prices than the giant chain supermarket in the next parking lot. Fresh lemons, 4 for $1, heads of garlic, the same; healthy-looking eggplant, lettuces, carrots, tomatoes of all sizes and onions, jicama, Swiss chard (my new, recent love), broccoli, and mushrooms. What caught my eye first were the size of the portobella mushrooms, and it was then and there that I constructed a dinner in my head. At the deli counter (I smelled it before I saw it!) they offer loads of yummy olives, and my favorite, feta cheese. The feta prices per pound were reasonable, and I knew that feta was what I wanted to stuff my giant portabello mushroom with. I ordered a half pound, and it came nicely double wrapped in paper and plastic wrap: a nice, fragrant, healthy-looking chunk of delicious cheese that puts “store-bought” to shame.

Ready-made dinners.

If you’re feeling lazy or are in a hurry, Spiros pre-makes their yummy Greek-Italo dinners for your convenience: just take home and reheat. Grab a bottle of wine and some baklava from the deli, and you are good to go. Bliss!

My favorite part of Spiros (besides the cheese)  is the dry goods: Alessi brand foods, like dried soups, espresso, ladyfingers, cannoli shells, and marinara sauces. Alessi (based in Tampa) always makes quality stuff and it’s painfully authentic Italian. (If you’ve never been to the Alessi restaurant in Tampa, you owe it to yourself to pay a visit.) Spiros even offers pignoli nuts in bulk – how cool is that?

Vigo & Alessi - Tampa homeboys.

I wound up with just the half pound of feta, giant mushroom, and fresh head of garlic, but resisted temptation for other things (which is tres difficulte for me!). And let me tell you: that fresh feta was AMAZING. Perfectly salty but not too, it complemented the garlic and the portabello as I grilled the three together. When I want my next feta fix, it’s going to come from Spiros (and as they’re open 7 days a week – not made hard at all).

You can find Spiros at 6801 Gulfport Blvd South, in South Pasadena. Go – and indulge.

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