DoNorth

Mediteranean on Margaret Street

Fusing Family & Flavor For Peter Kritziotis, Greek and Italian food under one roof make a home. His restaurant, Aleka’s, serves Mediterranean classics like seafood fra diavolo, gyros and horiatiki. Kritziotis, 49, comes from a Mediterranean family. His mother immigrated from Sicily to Canada in the late ‘50s at the age of 5. His father made the trip from Greece at 16 in the ‘60s. Later that decade, the two met in Montreal. In his younger years, family get-togethers for Kritziotis were filled with both cuisines. This inspired him to open Aleka’s and cook what he knows. To him, food…

(DoNorth/Zachary Jackson)

Fusing Family & Flavor

For Peter Kritziotis, Greek and Italian food under one roof make a home. His restaurant, Aleka’s, serves Mediterranean classics like seafood fra diavolo, gyros and horiatiki.
Kritziotis, 49, comes from a Mediterranean family. His mother immigrated from Sicily to Canada in the late ‘50s at the age of 5. His father made the trip from Greece at 16 in the ‘60s. Later that decade, the two met in Montreal.
In his younger years, family get-togethers for Kritziotis were filled with both cuisines. This inspired him to open Aleka’s and cook what he knows. To him, food is more than a vegetable, protein and starch. Food made lifelong bonds. No matter the occasion, food was what brought his family together.
“I was born cooking,” he says.

Even as a child, Kritziotis had a part in family meals. Whether it was chopping onions or washing dishes, he couldn’t stay away from the kitchen. It is uncommon in both Greek and Italian culture for men to be in the kitchen, Kritziotis explained, men typically wait to be served, enjoy the meal and wait for it to be cleaned up.
Instead of attending culinary school, Kritziotis pursued a degree in business and economics in order to open a restaurant.
“Having both a business degree and loving cooking created Aleka’s,” he says.
Almost all of Aleka’s dishes highlight three Mediterranean elements: rice, a protein (normally chicken, lamb or beef) and citrus. Both cultures incorporate these ingredients because of their geographic location on the Aegean sea. In Ancient Greece, dolmas, or stuffed grape leaves, were a common dish and they make an appearance on the menu today.
“The ingredients are pretty much the same,” Kritziotis explains. “But the Greeks tend to cook a lot of lamb, a lot of chicken — while Italians, it’s more about their sauces.”

Originally from New York City, he started in the kitchens of Gyro Corner in Bayside, Queens. In 2001 he came to Plattsburgh to be closer to his family in Montreal and opened his restaurant which was called My Greek Kitchen until 2014 when the name changed to Aleka’s.
He noticed the difference.
“Thirty thousand people lived in five square blocks in Queens. Over here, 30,000 people live in a 26 mile radius,” said Kritziotis.
He noticed the difference in demographics as well. Plattsburgh is not as diverse as New York City which makes it more of a challenge to sell ethnic food, Kritziotis says.
“To serve Greek food to people who don’t know what Greek food is, is hard,” he says.
Despite the difficulties that come with introducing new foods to an area, he feels it is important to share his culture with Plattsburgh while allowing customers to experience traditional Mediterranean food.
“It brings a touch of ethnicity, new flavors and culture,” Kritziotis says.
He promises Aleka’s food will always be honest and fresh.
His staff of 19 has created the family kitchen atmosphere that he had growing up. He has passed on his culinary knowledge to his staff.

“I love cooking from scratch the way my grandparents did and reproducing those dishes because it brings a sense of home,” Kritziotis says.

Aleka’s most popular dishes are the gourmet 12-inch pizzas made with hand-stretched dough and homemade sauce, and salads featuring fresh produce with zesty dressings. The customer favorites are important to Kritziotis because their opinion matters the most to him.
“Without my customers, I am nothing. That’s my motto.”

Issue: Winter/Spring 2019

 

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