The word “FINALLY” in the window of Solon’s newest restaurant on Aurora Road is something his loyal customers understand, Simply Greek owner Pete Moissis said with a laugh.
“It’s our third day, and I haven’t had to explain it,” he said. “Everybody gets it.”
After nearly three years of a wait, Simply Greek opened last week after a long series of delays that could be characterized as somewhat of a “perfect storm,” Mr. Moissis, 54, a resident of South Russell, explained. The wait had to do with factors such as maintaining staff employment while closing the restaurant’s second location on University Circle, where it was located nearly four years, as well as a rigid process which has relaxed in recent history due to Solon’s “pro-business” environment.
“We were holding on by our teeth to keep our dream afloat after three years of paying rent,” Mr. Moissis said. “We have a lot of faith in this area and have pushed through.
“This market is perfect, and close to home,” said Mr. Moissis.
Simply Greek opened originally in Bainbridge, with that location closing in 2016. It was there that Mr. Moissis not only grew the brand, the former marketing executive explained, but also amassed a loyal following with authentic Greek cuisine made with fresh and healthy ingredients.
“Nothing comes out of a can here,” Mr. Moissis said, noting that the restaurant does not even own a microwave. “We are owner-operated and actually cook the food.”
Many dishes come from old family recipes from Mr. Moissis’ late parents Nick and Kalliope. In fact, the restaurant’s baklava recipe, complete with 42 layers of phyllo and hand-ground walnuts, is from his mother’s great-grandmother’s recipe in Crete.
The restaurant’s famous tzaziki sauce, which tops its gyros as well as a number of other sandwiches and entrees, is made by hand by Mr. Moissis and is one of the starting points that got him in the business, he said.
“I was horsing around with a lamb on a spit at home,” Mr. Moissis recalled, “and made my own tzatziki from scratch.”
He said he told his family at the time, “We can open a business around this sauce, because no one else does it.
“And that’s just what happened.”
The sauce, made with low fat Greek yogurt, fresh dill, garlic and olive oil, is among many homemade items on the vast menu. Even the chicken strips are hand breaded and always fresh, Mr. Moissis said.
Customers enjoy Greek offerings like the gyro made with the highest grade of lamb from a special rotisserie; as well as chicken souvlaki, grape leaves, grilled octopus and much more.
There are also traditional offerings like the award-winning hamburger made of premium Black Angus beef, and fresh cut fries. Add crumpled feta, oregano, olive oil and lemon for “Greek Fries.”
“No one makes fries like we do,” Mr. Moissis said. “We put more work in our fries than some guys put in their ribs.” The fry seasoning is house made, with all the food “made to order.
“We are very detail oriented,” Mr. Moissis continued, and place a high importance on sourcing the ingredients. For example, produce comes from this area and seafood is fresh caught.
“Solon’s options for food are overwhelmingly corporate,” Mr. Moissis said. “There are very few places that are owner-operated where the food is actually cooked, not reheated.”
Simply Greek prides itself on home cooked meals, perfect for families on the go. They do about 90 percent take out, and have grown their catering business.
“Cooking is a lost art,” Mr. Moissis said, and he employs only those who align with his vision.
“We have a feel good open kitchen” here, Mr. Moissis said. Greek music fills the air of the restaurant, with some rock and roll peppered in.
Mr. Moissis runs Simply Greek alongside son Nick, 29. Son Michael, 14, is known to run the register on the weekends. Mr. Moissis and his wife Jennifer also have a daughter, Kallie, 16.
It was a natural progression to the restaurant business. Mr. Moissis said his father was a restaurateur with several establishments throughout Cleveland.
He learned at an early age the ins and outs of the business, eventually leaving his marketing career after two decades to open his own.
“We needed something we could control,” he said following the economic downturn about a decade ago. “Good economy, bad economy – people eat.”
Whether it’s a full lamb dinner, a gyro to go or a half pound of chicken wings, no one can beat him on quality and price, Mr. Moissis said.
Simply Greek draws customers from all over, including North Canton, Ashtabula and Warren, among other areas. The restaurant is open five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and closed Sunday and Monday.
Despite a large carryout business, the restaurant does provide a cozy seating area for those wishing to dine in.
“From the outside, we look small, but we are mighty,” Mr. Moissis said. “Where can you get a really great lamb dinner while kids have a burger and mom has a salad and not spend $100 on your family?
“It was a wide open market here,” he said. “No one is cooking like this.”