48A Merrick Ave. Merrick, NY 516-377-0488
For many years, this little storefront housed Limani Mediterranean Marketplace, a charming, old-fashioned grocery chock-a-block with Greek imports, but not always staffed by an English speaker. Last year, Theodore Diamantis bought the store and, with the help of his family, transformed it into a sleek, Greek emporium. It opened in November.
Diamantis graduated in 2011 from Hofstra with a degree in entrepreneurship, and was raring to "get into business and be my own boss." His mother, Sotiria, had been a longtime Limani customer and approached the original owners. A deal was struck.
Theodore's father, Peter, handled the construction and furnishings. Sotiria heads up the kitchen (she's teaching Theodore her recipes for sweet and savory Greek pastries). Sisters Demi and Athanasia help out behind the counter.
One wall is lined with shelves containing imported grains, preserves, oils, condiments, coffee, tea, cookies and more. At the back is a freezer full of imported specialties, including big bags of hard-to-find frozen okra and artichoke bottoms. A stainless-steel "olive bar" also offers a range of delicious homemade toursia (pickled foods): cabbage-carrot-celery ($3.99 a pound), green beans ($8.99), seafood ($16.99).
Theodore is particularly proud of his Greek cheeses, not only five varieties of feta, but also halloumi, mizithra, kefalotiri, vlahotiri, kasseri.
Sotiria Diamantis allowed that some of their Greek specialties could be found at the supermarket. "But when you go to Waldbaum's," she said, "you don't know anybody. Here, you have a cup of coffee, you see someone you haven't seen in a while, you talk about what you're making for Easter."
Photo: Theodore Diamantis was eager to make his shop a family affair.