A commercial plaza on Portsmouth's Mirona Road might not be the kind of place where you'd expect to find authentic Greek fare. Located in Madison Village off Route 1, Café Nostimo serves a variety of traditional Greek dishes (and a handful of American favorites as well), while offering customers an affordable alternative to dinner downtown. Having won Taste's Best Of award for Inexpensive Lunch and Dinner three years in a row, it's no wonder customers say, "It's like eating in Yia Yia's kitchen."
Owned by Dean and Nancy Zottos, Café Nostimo features recipes inspired by those of Dean's own Yia Yia (Greek for grandmother). In planning the menu, Dean prepared moussaka with Nancy in the kitchen of his childhood home, shared by three generations, awaiting the verdict from his Papou (grandfather). After taking small, mindful bites of the hot moussaka, quietly and without so much as a glance in the cooks' direction, Papou muttered one word: Nostimo. Delicious. This experience inspired the name of their eatery.
Open since 2008, Café Nostimo consistently lives up to its name. The Meze (Appetizer) Plate offers an assortment of Greek flavors: warm pita bread, mild feta, briny Kalamata olives, herb-sprinkled tomatoes, and tzatziki, yogurt blended with lemon, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. Other not-to-miss appetizers include Dolmathes, grape leaves stuffed with herb and lemon–seasoned rice, and the popular Spanakopita, spinach pie made from layers of phyllo dough, spinach, eggs, and a secret blend of cheeses.
Several Greek favorites are served as entrees or sides. You can't go wrong withLoukanico, a mild Greek sausage seasoned with orange zest, or Keftethes, pan-fried Greek meatballs. Enjoy these meaty offerings alone, on the side, or with a traditional Greek Salad and rice pilaf.
For heartier fare, especially popular in winter, Café Nostimo offers casserole-type specialties. Pastichio consists of layers of pasta baked with seasoned ground beef and topped with a bechamel sauce. The family Moussaka recipe is a blend of roasted eggplant, creamy whipped potatoes, and savory ground beef.
Lamb is a well-known Greek specialty, so be sure to try Cafe Nostimo's Souvlaki, marinated kebabs that will melt in your mouth. The Gyro, strips of seasoned ground lamb and beef, comes in a wrap, as a plate with rice pilaf or roasted potatoes, or on a grilled flatbread Pizzotto. Other pizzotto toppings include Santorini, with grilled shrimp, andMediterranean Veggie with peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, feta, and Kalamata olives.
This being the Seacoast, there are plenty of seafood offerings. Shrimp Tourkolimanoare baked in a tomato sauce and topped with feta cheese. Baked Haddock Olympiafeatures a seasoned crumb stuffing and lobster sauce. The Greek Style Green Beansare the perfect accompaniment, slow-roasted with garlic, onion, and tomatoes.
Save room for dessert. The traditional Baklava, phyllo baked with ground walnuts, andFiniki, a very dense cookie with cinnamon and citrusy notes of orange, both gain sweetness from a sugar syrup. A perfect accompaniment to coffee or tea is the milderGalactobouriko, phyllo filled with a creamy custard with just a hint of vanilla.
For beverages, several local microbrews are available, along with a full selection of Greek wines, including the fun and popular line of My Big Fat Greek Wines and a historic dessert wine, St. John Commandaria. Café Nostimo also offers a selection of Greek provisions, such as olive oils, cheeses, and condiments.
72 Mirona Road
Photography by: Kindra Clineff