For many of us living in the Hudson Valley, Pete’s Famous, “The Diner of Rhinebeck,” is a local eatery that serves a traditional good old American breakfast: fried eggs with home fries, waffles, and pancakes with good-tasting coffee or tea. Also lunch and dinner service of good soups, triple-decker sandwiches, bison hamburgers, cuban paninis, and quesadillas are all staples as well.
There is no doubt that owner-chefs George and Rula Foutsitzis have created a very special place in the town for good eats. Established 10 years ago as one of three Pete’s Famous in Dutchess County (co-owner Pete Sarkos just closed the original one in Hyde Park last week), the Rhinebeck eatery is going strong. Locals as well as national luminaries dine there often because of the variety of good food and value.
A little-known fact few customers know about, however, is the specialty food niche the restaurant has: The Greek dishes served are exceptionally delicious—evoking the traditional flavors of family recipes handed down from generation on. George Foutsitzis is the talent behind the fascinating Greek entrees. Try a Greek salad, which has tons of healthy ingredients. Or go for the famous gyro—a roasted meat dish usually of lamb, or beef, or chicken, wrapped in a fluffy warm pita bread served with tomatoes, onion, and tzatziki (a yogurt dip-like sauce of cucumber, garlic and dill), which is heavenly with plenty of cucumber zest that provides the necessary acidity to cut the richness of the meats used.
The weekend evening I went there for dinner I was excited to taste these Greek culinary wonders: I started with some white wine and domata, a dish with a healthy serving of Feta cheese and tomato, topped with oregano and peppers, surrounded with Greek olive oil and virgin kalamata olives, and served with pita. The medium-cut block of Feta was smooth with a mild tanginess that blended well with the olives and tomato. It was followed by a few great treats of Greek cuisine. The Moussaka, three layers of sautéed aubergine, and then baked is a classicist’s version of the stick-to-your-ribs Greek casserole. The Moussaka was fragrant with a heady blend of spices like cinnamon, oregano and pepper, and fresh tomatoes, eggplant, and beef, and was topped with a tasty béchamel sauce. The next dish, the Spanakopita, is to die for—a very light, thin phyllo-crust pie with spinach, olive oil, and delicious chunks of mild feta cheese inside. And if you like seafood, the Shrimp Santorini is a delectable dish of jumbo shrimp with feta and kalamata olives. Another highlight included a tender and moist, coral–tinged salmon stuffed with spinach and feta served with spanakorizo ( a fluffy rice pilaf ) delicious in its own right.
Rhinebeck is fortunate to have a place where you can go to and sit down and have a Greek souvlaki, gyro, or Briam—an oven-cooked vegetable dish of potatoes, zucchini, and eggplant—and feel you are in a comfortable mountain taverna. So allow your senses to be tantalized by the genuine Greek taverna cuisine prepared by George and Rula. They have made Pete’s Famous into a very soulful and personal restaurant in Rhinebeck. And the service provided by waitresses Marion and Amy is attentive, competent and relaxed. Servers often joke with customers and are extra friendly. And the restaurant owners deliver on their promise to provide the freshest and tastiest Greek fare to their customers.
34 East Market St.
Hours: 6am – 9pm daily
Good – 4 stars
Baron Corso de Palenzuela von Habsburg is an international restaurant critic, chef, and connoisseur of food, wine, beer, and chocolate. He has written for Gusto, Gourmet, Country and Abroad and other publications.