A relative newcomer to the Auburn restaurant scene is 84 Court Pizza and Restaurante. Quickly approaching their first anniversary in January, the husband and wife team of Genti (pronounced with a hard g) and Enka Suli have developed a unique and extensive menu, much of which is based on traditional Balkan-style cooking.
The couple got their start in the restaurant business after working several years with Genti’s cousin, who owns the Cumberland House of Pizza in Cumberland Center. Genti, who moved from Albania to the United States in 1994, compares his stint at his cousin’s business to a culinary apprenticeship. He said it is customary in Greek culture — once someone has learned the pizza business — to see them branch off and open up their own business.
What really sets 84 Court apart from the typical pizza joint is its lengthy — and highly creative — list of specialty pizzas. The day I popped in, I admit I was a bit hard-pressed to choose from the nearly 20 contenders. As a longtime fan of Hawaiian pizza, I immediately noticed the 84 Court twist. Called the Hanna Forest, it starts off with pineapple, ham and bacon on top of — here’s the catch — a sweet and spicy mango sauce they mix up themselves. Mmmmm.
Other noteworthy pizza choices include The Godfather (grilled chicken, feta, oregano and a cheese blend), the Peloponnesian (broccoli, spinach, kalamata olives and tomato on top of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses) and the Da “Vinci,” comprised of grilled steak, caramelized onions, green pepper and sausage.
Saving all those options for another day, I decided on the Athena. Swapping out the red onions for black olives, this Greek pizza was (in my mind, at least) perfect! The most enjoyable part, though, was to discover they now offer gluten-free crust, which is not yet noted on their printed menus. Enka (short for Enkelejda) said their regular pizza dough is made from scratch, and would be considered a thick crust. Enka advised customers who prefer a thin crust to request it when ordering — restaurant staff will be more than willing to oblige.
By pairing the pizza with an appetizer special of spinach “meatballs” (actually vegetarian!), the meal was more than ample for two people. The spinach meatballs are huge; served on a bed of lettuce, they are embellished with tomatoes and cucumber, topped off with a small amount of tzatziki sauce and served with Greek salad dressing on the side.
Genti talked at length about their sandwich menu, noting that the serving size at 84 Court tends to be on the large side. He referred to them as “loaded, hefty and substantial.” Almost all of their sandwiches are oven toasted. They range in price from $5.25 for a veggie wrap to $7.75 for the toasted tuna melt, which Genti said is one of his more popular sandwiches. It is topped with Greek olives, red onion, tomato and a mixture of feta, mozzarella and cheddar cheese. Another sandwich that might make you raise an eyebrow: pulled pork served with grilled bean sprouts, spinach and mushrooms, topped with the same cheese mix ($7).
Other popular items at 84 Court include the steak and chicken bombs (both $7.75), along with a dish called the Specialty 84 House (sauteed vegetables with your choice of grilled chicken or shaved steak, topped with feta or provolone cheese), which goes for $8.25. He calls it “half salad, half meal.”
The dinner menu ranges from traditional Greek favorites, such as souvlaki, kebabs and spanakopita, to chicken stir fry and vegetarian lasagna (each served with homemade garlic dinner rolls and a choice of a side for $10.25). The restaurant serves assorted beers and wine, currently offering two Greek wines by the bottle.
For customers who want a quick lunch on the go, the Sulis provide a few tables on the first floor. For more leisurely and pleasurable dining, ask to be seated in their upstairs dining room. The space (formerly Holly’s Own Deli and before that the Black Watch) has been decorated in a simple and tasteful fashion, and the fireplace upstairs is usually fired up. The upstairs can be reserved for small parties (50 people or less), with assorted menu choices.
Tucked in between the numerous Greek items on the menu, you will find several Americanized meal options such as nachos, quesadillas or spaghetti. The kid’s menu offers a couple standard items, along with a fun option for a pizza made on pita bread, starting at $3.75.
Several desserts are available, including a tiramisu custard, homemade baklava, and kataifi — a softer version of baklava made with shredded phyllo dough, shaped into small bundles.
Besides all their menu items, Genti offers something else to look forward to: Come springtime, open deck dining will be available at the rear of the restaurant, tucked on the hill above the parking area.
Today, Genti offered to share with readers a fun eggplant appetizer, a simple Greek salad dressing recipe and one of his favorite ways to cook up chunks of beef, pork or chicken — the kebab.(The key to a good kebab, Genti advised, is in the marinade, noting that he recommends at least 8 hours — and even up to 24 hours, if you desire — for the meat to absorb the flavors.) See Genti demonstrate how he makes the eggplant bruschetta at www.sunjournal.com.
Grilled eggplant bruschetta
1 medium eggplant, washed and cut into six half-inch-thick slices
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Half a large French roll, cut into six 1- to 1.5-inch-thick slices
Tomatoes, washed; enough for six slices
1 cup fresh lettuce, washed and chopped
2 ounces chopped Greek olives
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup Greek dressing
Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat. Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Grill eggplant slices on medium heat 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Remove from heat. Grill bread slices on medium heat for 30 seconds on each side – be very careful, bread burns easily. Allow eggplant to cool slightly. On top of toasted bread slices, stack the eggplant, tomatoes, lettuce, Greek olives and feta cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and top with a dollop of Greek dressing (see recipe below). Serve warm or cool.
Basic Greek salad dressing
1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
In a container, whisk together the olive oil, garlic powder, oregano, basil, pepper, salt, onion powder and Dijon-style mustard. Pour in the vinegar and mix vigorously until well blended. Store tightly covered at room temperature.
Genti Suli’s pork kebabs
Get a good portion of pork loin; cut into cubes.
2 ounces of premium cooking oil
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons mint flakes
2 ounces olive oil
4 ounces teriyaki sauce
Mix all ingredients in a large container; cover and put in refrigerator for at least 8 hours (up to 24 hours would be OK, Genti says). When done marinating, place each piece of pork onto a wooden skewer. Cook on a gas grill or over charcoal (if neither are available, Genti says you can use a fry pan or your broiler). Serve with rice, mashed potato or baked potato. Excellent served with sauteed vegetables. Use the same marinade recipe for chicken or beef, if preferred.