Nostalgia prompted Stavros Koudellou to open Trapezaria in Rockville last summer. In his estimation, the area’s recent crop of Greek restaurants is focused more on trends than on tradition.
“No one’s doing it the old-fashioned way,” says the native of Cyprus and the co-owner of what translates from Greek as “big table.” Trapezaria, says the restaurateur, celebrates “the way we were eating back home 50 years ago.”
Helping him and his business partners toward the goal is Kyriakos Photiou. The veteran chef has spent 40 of his 59 years in professional kitchens, including Taverna Cretekou in Alexandria, the late Mykonos in Washington and the shuttered Athenian Plaka in Bethesda.
To taste the chef’s chicken-lemon soup, punched up with pepper, and his lamb chops, bold with garlic, is to imagine oneself at a family reunion in Athens. Whole grilled rockfish yields a snowy interior that needs but a squeeze of lemon to make the dish sing. Just as satisfying are the accompaniments: golden roast potatoes flavored with a splash of chicken stock; minty string beans cooked to near collapse.
One doesn’t need to eat meat to enjoy Photiou's efforts; baked eggplant stuffed with caramelized onions , tomatoes, pine nuts and raisins is a hearty case in point.
The food comes with a handsome frame. Get past the generic facade and you’ll find an expansive dining room with the obligatory blue-and-white accents but also a fireplace here and a waterfall there. The occasional order of saganaki — Greek cheese torched at the table — turns dinner into theater.
Not every taste is swoon-worthy; the chickpea dip, for instance, is both stiff and dull. But you have to appreciate a restaurant that won’t let you go until you’ve had something sweet, on the house.
The “big table” also has a big heart.
11 N. Washington St., Rockville. 301-339-8962. trapezariarockville.com. Dinner entrees, $12 to $28.