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Mazi

33 E. Main St. Riverhead , NY 631-740-9933

Mazi in Riverhead.

Mazi in Riverhead. Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

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Type:

Restaurant, Greek, Mediterranean

Price range:

$$ (Moderate)

Description:

After a fire destroyed his previous restaurant, Athens Grill, John Mantzopoulos has returned with this more casual and moderately-priced Mediterranean-Greek spot, which has a sleek industrial look. A major strength is house-made gyro from a chef committed to making virtually everything from scratch. Other items you won’t want to miss are braised giant butter beans, panko-crusted crab fritters, moussaka, spinach pie and a mixed grill platter with chargrilled skewered pork and chicken and a lamb chop.

Hours:

Lunch, Monday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner, Monday to Saturday 5 to 10 p.m.

Ambience:

Very Good

Service:

Fair

Credit cards:

Accepted

Accessibility:

Wheelchair access through front entrance.

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Critic review

The Mixed Grill entree includes lamb chop, grilled

The Mixed Grill entree includes lamb chop, grilled skewered pork and chicken at Mazi in Riverhead. Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

The word for “together” in Greek is “mazí” — also the name of this new Mediterranean-Greek restaurant in Riverhead. The appellation is chef-owner John Mantzopoulos’ way of thanking the neighborhood people who came together to help him and his wife after a fire destroyed their previous spot, Athens Grill. Rising in its place is this more casual and moderately priced aspirant whose sleek industrial look and steel-gray palette are meant to signify strength.

A major strength here is Mantzopoulos’ commitment to authenticity and from-scratch cooking. House-made gyro, available in beef, chicken and lamb versions, features meat that’s marinated, stacked on vertical spits, rotisserie-roasted and carved to order. While the shards may appear dry, they’re actually moist and savory. Sample all three varieties in a gyro “flight” presented on pita wedges. Or get any in a pita sandwich, topped, in authentic Greek manner, with sliced onion, ripe red tomato and tzatziki.

Mantzopoulos’ talent comes through in an appetizer of feta-topped braised giant butter beans (similar to lima beans), creamy and addictive. Less successful are fried local clams, some of which are nice and briny, others a bit fishy-tasting. But panko-crusted crab fritters have lightness, crunch and bright clean flavor. And spinach pie manages to be both vibrant and mellow. One can’t help but wish that hummus were served at room temperature rather than icy-cold.

In the case of a salmon special, the lovely crisp-skinned slab is served over a lukewarm fennel purée. To Mantzopoulos’ credit, the entire dish is redone, with everything piping hot — and entirely successful. But the Mazi salad with fried artichoke, roasted beets and grilled haloumi cheese is undermined by a topping of grilled shrimp that tastes carbonized. On the other hand, a mixed grill of skewered pork and chicken, and a lamb chop is a smoky, juicy hit. Choose either herbal roasted potatoes or adroitly seasoned hand-cut fries as an accompaniment; it’s hard to go wrong with either. And it’s hard to beat the homey, hearty moussaka made with eggplant, zucchini, potato, chopped sirloin and a lush béchamel sauce.

You’ll want to finish with creamy galaktoboureko (phyllo-encased pudding) or nutty baklava.

One can only hope that the restaurant matures, service will become more focused, the kitchen better coordinated. Clearly, there’s much skill at work.