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And then there were the absolutely perfect dolmades: tangy marinated grape leaves hugging al dente rice, a perfect bite that invited another perfect bite. I wished there were more of them on the platter. Tom must be making those fresh all day, every day to prevent the bite-sized appetizers from getting too starchy. I could write a love letter to them. No, really.
Venturing out into the menu's other cuisines isn't necessarily a mistake, but I haven't found any of those dishes as interesting as the ones inspired by Tom and Angie's home country. I finally succumbed to my server's pasta recommendation and ordered a plate of spaghetti with Greek sausage one night. Although the pasta was perfect, loaded with zesty tomato sauce and fiery chunks of sausage, I found myself eyeing my dining companion's medium-rare lamb chop with no small amount of jealousy. And while the brunch omelets weren't bad, they were still just eggs enveloping feta, tomatoes, onions and green peppers, needing a little salt and maybe some paprika, which is liberally used on many other offerings.
Portions here are enormous, and all entrees are served with a choice of soup or salad. Those complimentary starters are the weakest part of the meal: salad made with bagged, pre-mixed lettuce; lemon-and-rice soup that needs more lemon and less cooking time to prevent the rice from breaking down into mush. The servers will all insist that you stuff yourself, prompting you to eat just a little bit more until you've cleaned your plate.
15350 E. Iliff Ave.
Aurora, CO 80013
After a feast like that, dessert might seem like overkill. I nearly always want a sweet finish to my meal, though, even if it's just a bite — and just a bite is all you need of the desserts here. The baklava, flaky layers of phyllo dough soaked in honey layered with almonds, is bound together so solidly, a very little goes a long way. And while the loukoumades, airy balls of doughnut bathed in honey and cinnamon, are served by the half-dozen, one is enough.
The end of a meal at the Athenian brings complimentary ouzo, a welcome digestif. And then Angie sends you waddling back out into the world with a firm, loud, motherly declaration to come back soon or she'll be worried. She shouldn't worry, though. You're part of the family now. You have to come back.